Prison Industrial Complex Tearing Down Economy and Society

One in ten jobs in America are related to the prison industrial complex. We incarcerate 40 times more individuals than any civilized country and the same number of citizens as China which has five times our population.

This is a tremendous burden on our economy. We don’t produce saleable goods or increase the gross national product from our prison industry. Our tax base is eroded when all of these people don’t work. Huge health care costs, not paid for by those using it (the prisoners) increase the public expenses. Welfare and Medicaid expenditures are bloated by the needs of the families of the incarcerated who can no longer support them. Potentially productive workers for new high tech and energy industries are frozen in dead end jobs (correctional officers and employees), when they could be producing saleable goods and services while increasing our country’s productivity. Salvageable workers are thrown to the wind by ignoring and vastly underfunding drug and alcohol abuse treatment and mental health treatment.

Our 40 year experiment concerning being “tough on crime” has failed miserably. Ultimately we will be increasing the crime rate as angry, hostile, untrained prisoners, whose mental illness, addiction, and bad habits are ignored, are released into the population – as we reap the fruits of that which we sow. The ranks of those being released each year are growing exponentially as the steadily increasing numbers incarcerated are released – now about 600,000 persons a year.

I believe until:

  1. we take the profit out of the prison-industrial complex; 
  2.  increase transparency in contracting, juvenile justice, mental health care, training of officers and staff, and policy decisions;
  3. increase training for correctional officers and most importantly for parole officers (who have the toughest and most complex law enforcement job in the country);
  4. take corruption out of the system (particularly in Illinois where all contracts with the State require a 10% kickback or bribe, leading to hiring unqualified patronage workers as officials and officers of the prison system); 
  5. legalize marijuana and control it like tobacco or alcohol to free up law enforcement, prosecutors, and the courts to deal with more substantial crimes;and
  6. most importantly add rehabilitation into the prison system so that the prisoners who are released become productive citizens; as well as
  7. abolish the costly and useless death penalty, 

the system will remain hopeless broken and costly, helping to drive our economy into the ground.

For more information about corruption in the Illinois and Cook County prison/court systems see my blog:

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3 Responses to “Prison Industrial Complex Tearing Down Economy and Society”

  1. William Torbeck Says:

    Thank you Dr. Shelton and I have certainly enjoyed the link you have offered. My oldest brother is in the 32nd year of a life sentence in Pennsylvania. I will not waste anyone’s time argunig guilt or innocence, my brother pled guilty for his involvment, end of story. I do not feel my brother should spend the rest of his natural life being incarcerated, that is the sole purpose of my advocacy. The sentencing laws must be reformed and that would truly be reform. Thank you again for the very insightful and informing link. God Bless and i wish you health and happiness.


  2. Linda Shelton Says:

    I don’t think sentences should be irrevocable. People change. People heal. What is the point of squashing a human being like a bug continually after they have changed and now can contribute to society? How much punishment is enough. Is retribution the goal or is rehabilitation the goal? Mr Torbeck – I am glad you are an advocate for change.


  3. William Torbeck Says:

    Hello Dr. Shelton, I have been reading over Gov. Rendells proposed budget. $514 million being spent on higher education tuition aid, up 9% from last year. Correction spending–up 10% from last year–$ 1.6 billion in proposed budget. What we do not know is how much more is being spent on corrections costs from the General funds. I encourage many to follow state budgets and spending on corrections–it is amazing to me how spending has gone up in most states. Thanks for the inspiration!!!


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