Review

This book looks at how, and why, America leads the world in the number of its citizens per capita that are incarcerated. The term "prison industrial complex" may be a new term, but it is a very old concept.

Of course, it all started in the days of slavery, when millions of Africans were brought to the Western Hemisphere. In 1829, in Philadelphia, the Quakers and other reformers opened the Eastern State Penitentiary. Solitary confinement was thought to provide a prisoner the space and time to reflect and consider God's judgment. The cells required the prisoner to bow when entering or leaving the cell. The only small window was in the ceiling; it was sometimes called "the eye of God." The Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution, the one that abolished slavery, contained a big loophole (anyone convicted of a crime was subject to involuntary servitude/slavery) which whites were quick to exploit. New laws were created, including Jim Crow laws, to keep blacks oppressed as much as possible.

More recently, there are many parts to the Prison Industrial Complex. Many inner city schools are closing, and those that are still open are starved for money. This reduces the chances of the average young person doing anything except joining the "underground economy" and ending up in jail. There is little, or no, attempt at rehabilitation in prison. Private prison corporations will cut costs wherever possible (to boost profits) including on things like food for the prisoners. Many well-known corporations use prison labor. The "war on drugs" has been a total failure. All that it has done is jail thousands of non-violent drug offenders. Recidivism rates in American prisons are high. A sure political vote-getter are the words "tough on crime" even though actual crime rates have dropped by a lot. Did I forget to mention "stop and frisk" and Black Lives Matter? This book includes a syllabus for a college course called Black Prison Narratives.

This book deserves more than five stars. It is easy to read, and incredibly timely. The Prison Industrial Complex did not just suddenly appear; it is the result of very specific political, racial and economic policies designed to benefit the few over the many. It is extremely highly recommended.