IRON: The Business of Prison

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“In and out, the revolving door of the penitentiary.”

Growing up in the inner city, I saw a constant stream of men going in and out of prison. You would ask, “Hey where is so and so?” “Oh, he’s back in jail.” “What happened?” “Parole violation or robbed somebody or shot somebody.” If you didn’t know any better, you’d think prison was a business the way guys would go in and out. I guess that’s where that term career criminal comes from. Guys go to jail like it’s a paid position. But why? Why is the business of prison such a booming business.

I know you’re thinking, booming business. How is prison considered booming business? Think about this, the cost of keeping an inmate in prison is more than it cost to employ that inmate outside in the general population. So with that said, prison is kind of counterproductive for inmates. Well at least the ones that have not committed serious offenses such as strong armed robbers, rapist, child molesters, and murderers. No, no , I’m referring to the low level criminals like the forgers, petty thieves, and men behind on their child support. They are the ones that are taking up space; or are they really.

The prison business is big industry from the bedding that inmates sleep on to the food in the mess hall. The state issued clothing to the commissary on their monthly books. Someone is making money on a consistent basis supplying all these things. The question of what they are in the business of is answered, now who are the players in the game? There are two companies that hold three quarters of the market: Corrections Corporation of America and Wackenhut. Now these prisons get a contract for however many inmates can fit into a penitentiary. Guys get released for good behavior, but when they break the rules, there is more time added to their sentence. Which in turn means more money for the company.

Now prison is suppose to be for rehabilitation; on the surface at least. But when you look beneath the surface, you see the easy it is to get back into the penal system. And with the three strikes law, it further sweetens the deal for the corporation. I don’t care if you steal a bicycle or a slice a pizza, that’s 25 years to life on that third strike. But you’re probably wondering, why is it so hard for people to stay clean. All you do is get out, get a job, stay clean, no more problems. Wait a minute, let’s observe this for a second.

When you exit prison, a lot of men want to hurry up and get out, so they are paroled. Paroled is the key word, not freed. Getting released from prison with a parole officer can be just as constricting as prison. Parole officers would love nothing more than to catch you doing anything, no matter what it is; just to send you back to prison. Now you ask yourself, why would they want to do that. Well, these officers don’t earn their living by being nice. Plus, with the way prisons are set up as a business what is the incentive for them to see you free. There’s nothing in it for them, unless you’re back inside. Then you’re right back in the system once again. Not only back in, but serving the remainder of your sentence and maybe more time.

What about the men leaving prison and are free without parole officer. Then in that case you still have a long road ahead of you. Because first you have to find someone charitable enough to give you a job. Then, you have to distance yourself between you and your old circle of friends. God forbid you have a felony, you’re better off at times going back into a life of crime. With all of that has been said, why do some people get into crime to begin with; it seems quite avoidable.

The problem is that desperation brings guys into this life of crime. And sometimes as you’re in the life and eventually you want out. But then you find yourself in too deep, so you keep going further. Hopefully if you do get locked up it’s only enough time to be back on the outside as a productive member of society. You can have another opportunity to turn your life around. But for the ones who are there long, such as the lifers, you’re now part of the business. The business of the American prison system.


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