Prison Industrial Complex

Lets talk prison industrial complex. Prison. Industrial Complex is something that has developed over recent decades where the state and government is managed by private corporations. These corporations run prisons for profit.

Take this quiz on the prison industrial complex to see what you know already-

Angela Davies in her book, Are Prisons Obsolete states:

“The term “prison industrial complex” was introduced by activists and scholars to contest prevailing beliefs that increased levels of crime were the root cause of mounting prison populations. Instead, they argued, prison construction and the attendant drive to fill these new structures with human bodies have been driven by ideologies of racism and the pursuit of profit”

Using the prison system for profit is a scary notion, which is genuinely taking place, especially in America, today. For big corporations and powerful people to profit off of prisons, prisons have to have bodies. These bodies then generate income. When more bodies, often black and minority groups, are placed in prison, they are being exploited by bigger corporations whether they have committed a crime or not.

This is most present in the corporation in the United States called ALEC. ALEC is short for the American Legislative Exchange Council. It is made up by conservative legislators and private sector representatives who share “model legislation” for distribution for every state in the US. Big names invested in this company such as Coca-Cola, Walmart and Microsoft.

ALEC are responsible for the ‘Stand Your Ground’ Law which was passed in Florida in 2005. This law says you can kill someone if you feel threatened. This law created an atmosphere where gun sales shot up. Walmart is the biggest seller of guns in the US. Walmart are part of ALEC, therefore are financially benefitting from this law being passed. This law led to the death in 2012 of a 17 year old African- American boy called Trayvon Martin. He was shot by 28 year old George Zimmerman and was not held accountable for this act because of the Stand your ground law. George said he felt threatened and thought Trayvon was carrying a gun. He was not carrying any weapon.

According to Governing magazine, “ALEC has been a major force behind both privatizing state prison space and keeping prisons filled.” They introduced the three strikes law. This keeps bodies in prison for longer. Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) are part of ALEC. CCA is a company that owns and manages private prisons and detention centers and operates others on a concession basis. Through laws ALEC was passing, like the three strikes law, it was able to keep a steady influx of mainly POC bodies coming into prison, therefore solidifying their investment in privatisation and making a profit regardless of verdict. ALEC fails to address the real consequences for the real people.

CCA are profiting from laws being made by ALEC which are affecting and harming specific communities. These communities include but are not limited to black communities and immigrant communities. Corporations teaming up with the media and politicians is disgusting soup that should never be allowed to be mixed together. Racist people can pass racist laws without the consideration of devastation to communities and nobody bats an eyelid.


Joseph Lea is a lecturer in Human Rights Trinity College and a good friend of our lecturer Jess Thorpe. He gave a  lecture for our class and went into more detail about the Prison Industrial Complex.

The most interesting part of this talk for me was how all of these systems and entangled into each other.

As seen here, Joe explained to us how without these corporations, people in prison would be more isolated which ultimately is the opposite of what we want. However feeding into these companies allow them to exploit minority groups for profit. The difficult question is how we start breaking down this system. In my eyes, where money is involved, this feels close to impossible. How can we provide a system that benefits the people affected by it, not rich law makers.




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