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Punishment and Privatization: Debunking the Prison Industrial Complex

May 10, 2016 • • No Comments

Over the past week, the Criminal Justice Awareness and Action committee put on several events for their Criminal Justice Reform Advocacy week. Many students may have seen the replica solitary confinement cell in the pit last week; that was part of CJAA’s program, which also included a one-woman show on domestic violence, an art benefit night, and several discussions on other criminal justice-related topics.

I attended the week’s final event, a discussion on the Prison Industrial Complex. The idea of the Prison Industrial Complex obviously comes from the Military Industrial Complex, and it is an apt idea to make such a comparison between these two ideas. For a large part of the discussion, the group had to dissect the vast multitude of factors that contribute to the Prison Industrial Complex, including the corporate interests involved, the role of police, and the effect of prisons on communities, among others.

While there were what seemed like a million ideas discussed, the whole discussion centered on capitalism. All of the ideas that were involved in the construction of the Military Industrial Complex were motivated entirely by the accumulation of capital. While that idea is the bedrock of capitalism, the discussion group analyzed why it was wrong to be motivated by money when the way the money was made was by imprisoning other human beings for profit. Furthermore, they discussed that the current prison system supports capitalism through social elimination. Because there aren’t enough jobs in the United States, the prison system is used to take structurally unemployed people out of society in order for the capitalist system to keep working.

With everything that was discussed, the Prison Industrial Complex almost seems like an insurmountable problem. There’s no easy answer to it, because we always have to answer questions like “what becomes of capitalism?” or “how can we allow the prison system to continue serving its real purpose?” But everyone in the discussion seemed hopeful. They were all open to brave new ideas about what the world should be like. They all knew that a world without this level of injustice is possible, and they all wanted to see it become a reality. And no matter what kind of problems exist in the world, they can all be solved when people like these believe they can solve them.

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