Under the auspices of President John F. Kennedy, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy ordered the permanent shut down of the infamous Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary on March 21, 1963. An island located approximately 2.5 kilometers off the coast of San Francisco, California; the federal prison was home to the most notorious criminals for over three decades. The island also revealed to the world the unsettling state of circumstance the United States Justice and prison system suffers under in modern times. Apart from the brutal management prisoners lived under, the prison had shed a dark light upon the inhumane environment in which prisoners dwelled under in prisons across this nation.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, 0.74% of the United States population was incarcerated in 2011, making up a quarter of the worlds prison population, although the United States makes up less than 5% of the global population. The United States has had the highest incarceration rate per capita in the world since 2002, 39.4% of which are blacks, 20.6% of which are Latino, nearly 72,000 of which are youth, and 27% of which are non-citizens. As statistics in crime continue to rise, prisons become overwhelmed with overcrowding, and the unsuccessful decrease of illegal narcotics across the nation under the War on Drugs, many have longed turned their eyes to a system they see is feeding upon the incarceration of its own citizens.
A 2010 Annual Report documented with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) stated in the document, “a substantial portion of our revenue is generated under facility management contracts that specify per diem payments based upon occupancy.” Moreover, the document further justifies that “the demand for our facilities and services could be adversely affected by…leniency in conviction or parole standards and sentencing practices…” and later admits, “a decrease in occupancy levels could cause a decrease in revenues and profitability.”
The private prison industry in the U.S. has been a source of enormous profits, as the exponential growth of incarceration statistics and incomes are closely related. Although correlation does not imply causation, the U.S. Justice Department is quoted in stating a 1600% increase in private prison inmates from 1990 to 2009, even though private prisons have only been around for about thirty years (Heather C. West, et.al. 2010). The GEO Group, Inc., 2010 Annual Report states GEO made $1.27 billion in profits, while a 2010 Letter to Shareholders stated Corrections Corporation of America generated nearly $1.7 billion in revenue, making them the two largest private prison corporations in the world. Many experts across the world look at statists such as these and point to the privatization of the U.S. prison system as the reason for these massive numbers.
The Prison Industrial Complex is a general term coined to explain the relationship between the expansion of the...