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Effects of Prison Privatization on Mass Incarceration

Herbert Lopez

English 102

Incarceration rates in the United States have been on the rise due to the proliferation of

corporations seeking cheap labor resulting in high profit margins. Many sources have gathered

an array of evidence that demonstrates this trend nationwide. In the eyes of many citizens,

having prisoners work might not seem like a bad idea. In reality, this brings many problems

towards the common person as well as to the perception of the American people. Mass

incarceration can be seen as a form of modern-day slavery, where individuals are exploited on a

day to day basis. There are no worker unions to protect these individuals and no one really

knows if they are being forced to work in humane conditions. If these individuals are being

forced to work long hours for little to no pay, then one can make the argument that this is a form

of abuse. On the other hand, others would make the argument that prisoners have no rights, since

they violated the law. The purpose of this paper is to display evidence of companies’ high profit

margins and the correlation this has to the labor that comes from mass incarceration.

Austin, J. (2011). Making imprisonment unprofitable. Criminology & Public Policy, 10(3), 629-


Here the author of this scholarly journal James Austin, discusses imprisonment and what

to do in order so that these corporations will not receive such significant profit. Austin states that

a large reason that prisons have been a great source of cheap labor is because of capitalism.

Capitalism in itself is not bad, this ideology is what gives rise to members in a community who

want to thrive and have economic stability. The problem here in this nation is that corporations

are so motivated by wealth, that they become money hungry and do anything in their power to

make larger profits. This hunger is what has turned the modern US prison system into a form of

modern-day slavery. In order to decline the rate of mass incarcerations, there would need to be a

restructuring within the criminal justice system. The government would ultimately need to take

back charge of these prisons and ban privatization in order for this type of corruption to stop.

Burkhardt, B., & Connor, B. (2016). Durkheim, Punishment, and Prison Privatization.

The scholarly source provided examines the correctional system and its functionality. For

many years it has been thought that prison sentences act as a form of rehabilitation, in turn

making a problematic individual into a better functioning citizen in society. Now that many

prisons have become subject to privatization, many might wonder if sentences are still just for

the benefit of the inmate. The fact that these sectors have become profit-based has changed the

face of the justice system in some ways for sure. For instance, it can now be implied that

punishment is for the benefit of companies in terms of financial gain rather than for the good of

the prisoner.

Cooper, R., Heldman, C., Ackerman, A. R., & Farrar-Meyers, V. A. (2016). Hidden corporate

profits in the U.S. prison system: The unorthodox policy-making of the American

Legislative Exchange Council. Contemporary Justice Review, 19(3), 380-400.

This source analyzes many legislative bills that were speculated to have been passed for

unethical reasons. Here, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is thought to have

tampered with public policy actions that directly affected the extension of incarceration

sentences and corporate business in jails. These particular ties of ALEC with the bills shows that

they were purposefully altering the correctional system and slowly turning it into a cheap

workforce for various companies with sweatshop-like conditions. These implications became

even clearer through findings that confirm that ALEC is a close member to many of these

corporate offices who have privatized prisons.


Gran, B., & Henry, W. (2017). Chapter nine Public Prisons Versus Private Prisons. Inside Private

Prisons, 34(3/4), 169-181.

Here this journal examines the process of inmate rehabilitation. For the most part, it is

noted that most of these methods and procedures are put forth by none other than corporate

lobbyists. The shift in correctional authority has brought forth many issues and concerns to the

public eye. It is believed that the government holds the interest of the people in the highest

standards, but the same can’t be said about these corporations who seek economic flourishment

above anything else. These egotistical entities have been the cause which transformed the

rehabilitation and sentencing of inmates into nothing more than a quest for financial gains.

Greene, J. A. (2002). Entrepreneurial Corrections: Incarceration As A Business Opportunity.

Invisible Punishment.

This article examines the rise of the modern-day, profit-based correctional system. Before

corporations were in charge of many prison facilities around the US, inmate populations were

considerably lower than they are now. After various reforms and restructuring, lobbyists found

lots of opportunities which they could benefit from. Seeing all the stable income that could be

generated from these jails, drove these corporations to engage in business with the prison system.

Now after the privatization of jails, inmate populations are flooded in comparison to previous


Lebaron, G. (2008). Captive labour and the free market: Prisoners and production in the USA.

Capital & Class, 32(2), 59-81.


This scholarly journal explores the reality of prisoner labor that takes place behind bars.

Prisoners are forced to work for only mere cents an hour, which is only a fraction of the

minimum wage in the nation. According to the US Department of Labor, the federal minimum

wage is $7.25, effective July 2009 (US Department of Labor), in comparison, the minimum wage

in the average US prison system is about 23 cents per hour (LeBaron, 59-81). This is also

accompanied by an 80 percent deduction of their wages, which used as a form of room and board

fees. This type of labor has been the cause of employment scarcity amongst the American

population, so much so that there has been a substantial increase of an unskilled workforce. All

of this impacts society negatively, both because it decreases job opportunities for Americans and

because it also motivates corporations to rely on imprisonment as a primary source of labor.

Sliva, S. M., & Samimi, C. (2018). Social Work and Prison Labor: A Restorative Model. Social

Work, 63(2), 153-160.

The article provides descriptive information about the poor guidelines that lobbyists must

follow which makes it easier to profit from incarceration. Large corporations have an easy time

making business off of privately owned correctional facilities because of the weak restrictions

that are applied within the justice system. Sadly, this free marketplace negatively impacts a large

group of minorities in the United States. Trends have shown that in recent years imprisonment

rates have skyrocketed, whilst also showing that a large proportion of these inmates are in fact

minorities (Sliva, 153-160). These rising trends may become of greater concern in the near future

because of the role that modern punishment has taken in society.

Welch, M., & Turner, F. (2007). Private Corrections, Financial Infrastructure, and Transportation:

The New Geo-Economy of Shipping Prisoners. Social Justice, 34(3/4), 56-77.


This study investigates the rapidly growing prison industry within the United States. Over

that last several years, corporations have caught sight of the gold mine that lies within

correctional institutions. In prisons, business is very convenient because it is cheap, productive,

and reliable. The nation has seen a rapid growth in prison population that directly correlates with

the marketplaces that utilize labor that comes from it. In contrast to many views, this research

actually supports the usage of prisoners as means of profit for these companies. Lobbyists who

have privatized correctional institutions believe that prisoners should at least contribute in

positive ways towards society whilst serving a sentence.