There is not a crisis of crime that fills our prisons; it is unjust conviction and sentencing. Can we re-envision the prison system?
Prisoners are seen as dollar signs for government and corporate gain. The more prisoners, the more profit. Prisons have been turned into corporate and federal profit machines through privatization and unethical use of prison labor.
Abuse of all styles rules in the prisons of the USA. From solitary confinement and psychological torture to brutal beatings and rape, abuse within prisons has become common practice on all levels. Many who are found guilty of any level of crime can find themselves fast tracked into prison. Once inside they face the threat of abuse and mandatory participation in labor schemes created for government and corporate profit. Working conditions and benefits for prisoners are at best equivalent to some sweatshop workers. This accounts for massive profit margins for state, federal, and corporate prison interests. No wonder we live in a time where a country with a margin of the world’s population has the highest recorded percentage of inmates in history. Tax dollars pay for prisons while corporate interest gains from them in profit through cheap, and at times, free labor. What if we were able to remove the prison profit margin? Sentencing practices like ‘three strikes’ and ‘mandatory minimum’ would disappear, no longer needed to feed the prison labor system.
New York Times columnist Paul Kruger cuts to the economic core in his editorial, Prisons, Privatization and Patronage.
“As more and more government functions get privatized, states become pay-to-play paradises, in which both political contributions and contracts for friends and relatives become a quid pro quo for getting government business.”
If a crime is committed it should be a social red flag that indicates an individual who has somehow slipped through a social gap. The response should not be incarcerate, enslave and exploit. Instead, sentencing practices should take the role of finding the social problems at the root of the crime. Education and poverty are two of the biggest reasons. Shouldn’t the motivation of sentencing be to keep the individual as a member of their family, community and society? 21st-Century Slaves: How Corporations Exploit Prison Labor by Rania Khalik details the poor situation of American prison labor:
“As unemployment on the outside increases, so too will crime and incarceration rates, and our 21st-century version of corporate slavery will continue to expand unless we do something about it.”
Can we rethink the prison system?
Take a look at some of the ideas generated in our #GMPChat on #PrisonReform for more about this ongoing story.
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