Let there be no mistake: when you produce so many criminals that you can’t afford to lock them up, you are a failed state. Virtually every important civil institution in society has to fail to get you to this point. Your homes and houses of worship are failing to build law abiding citizens, much less responsible and informed voters. Your schools aren’t educating enough of your kids to make an honest living. Your taxes and policies are so bad that you are driving thousands of businesses away.
Although we in America like to think of ourselves as the “land of the free,” we are actually the land of incarnation. If you study the map above you see we lead the world in the number of prisoners as a percentage of population. We jail more criminals than allegedly less developed countries like China, Russia and Mexico. We are spending so much of our scarce resources on imprisonment. What has gone wrong? Is our social fabric so frayed that criminality is increasing? Have corporate interests driven an incarceration agenda? Does America have a prison–industrial complex?
Prison population in the US has soared way ahead of population growth and is now about 240 percent higher than it was in 1980 (Graph from Wikipedia):
It seems that the prison population is on growth hormones. Some people think the increase is due to corporate interests twisting the public agenda. Wikipedia describes the alliance of corporate and penal interests:
“Prison–industrial complex” (PIC) is a term used to attribute the rapid expansion of the US inmate population owing to the political influence of private prison companies and businesses that supply goods and services to government prison agencies.