The Prison Industrial Complex: Mapping Private Sector Players
First published last year, this one-of-a-kind report exposes the corporations that profit off our nation’s carceral crisis and the marginalized communities it’s ravaged. It serves as the largest lens into the prison industrial complex ever published, and this year, we added more than 800 corporations to bring the report total to over 3,900 corporations across 12 sectors and their investors.
Before we developed this report, many of these corporations flew under the radar, often intentionally masking their involvement in the prison industrial complex to avoid headline risk. With this annual publication, we are committed to continuously exposing the multi-billion-dollar industry built off the vulnerable communities—disproportionately black, brown, and cash poor—targeted by the criminal legal system.
There are thousands of publicly traded, private equity-owned, and privately held companies that commodify the suffering of those in the system and their loved ones. With this report, we hope to not only convey the enormity of the prison industrial complex, but to also empower allies with the information necessary to challenge it. The data at the heart of the report provides critical information about these corporations, and we encourage advocates, litigators, journalists, investors, artists, and the public to explore the data, share it with others, and join us in the movement against the commercialization of the criminal legal system.
Read the report
Prisons thrive on poverty
Axios: Stef W. Kight
June 8, 2019
By the numbers: In the 8 years leading up to incarceration, about half of people in prison had no income, according to a 2018 study by the Brookings Institution. Less than 10% made $25,000 or more in any one year over the same period.
The states where private prisons are thriving
Axios: Erica Pandey
June 8, 2019
Since the first private prison opened in 1984 in Tennessee, for-profit incarceration has ballooned into a $5 billion industry. In 2017, 121,420 people — about 8% of the U.S. prison population — were housed in private facilities, but the share is much higher in some states.
Why it matters: Private prisons tend to hire fewer guards than state and federal prisons and often are more dangerous.
Profiting from prison
Axios: Stef W. Kight and Dan Primack
June 8, 2019
A handful of American businesses have their fingers in almost every aspect of prison life, raking in billions of dollars every year for products and services — often with little oversight.
The big picture: Taxpayers, incarcerated people and their families spend around $85 billion a year on public and private correction facilities, bail and prison services, according to the Prison Policy Initiative.
BONUS The prison labor you benefit from
Prison labor is behind some products and services Americans use every day — from call centers and Whole Foods goat cheese to farmer's market fruit, Stef writes.
Justice and freedom for Strawberry Hampton
From our partners at MacArthur Justice Center: Strawberry Hampton is a Black transwoman who has survived unspeakable abuse in the Illinois Department of Corrections. She has spoken out about her experiences and as a result, IDOC has retaliated against her by adding time on her sentence. In short, Strawberry will have to serve an additional 9 months behind bars because she is trans women who reported abuse to IDOC officials. We have filed the attached petition requesting that the governor commute her sentence. We have been told that a sign-on letter from a wide, diverse cross-section of people and organizations could help bring Strawberry home.
Jailing Americans for Profit: The Rise of the Prison Industrial Complex
Huffington Post by John W. Whitehead
In an age when freedom is fast becoming the exception rather than the rule, imprisoning Americans in private prisons run by mega-corporations has turned into a cash cow for big business. At one time, the American penal system operated under the idea that dangerous criminals needed to be put under lock and key in order to protect society. Today, as states attempt to save money by outsourcing prisons to private corporations, the flawed yet retributive American “system of justice” is being replaced by an even more flawed and insidious form of mass punishment based upon profit and expediency.
You’ve Served Your Time. Now Here’s Your Bill.
Huffington Post By Chandra Bozelko and Ryan Lo
September 16, 2018
...(T)he economic exploitation of prisoners doesn’t end when they’re released. In 49 states, inmates are charged for the costs of their own incarceration.
The way this works varies. In some states, formerly incarcerated people are sent bills, and in others they are charged fines (sometimes called legal financial obligations, or LFOs). Some states collect the cost of incarcerating someone through windfall statutes, grabbing any inheritances, lottery winnings or proceeds from litigation.
Former Logan inmate sues over alleged sexual assault
State Capitol Bureau By Doug Finke
September 21, 2018
A former inmate at the Logan Correctional Center says she was sexually assaulted by a prison employee and that prison staff knew of the assaults but did nothing to stop them. The allegations are laid out in a federal lawsuit filed Monday in Springfield.
US Prisoners' Strike is a Reminder How Common Inmate Labor Is
CBS News by Ruben Garcia
September 3, 2018
Prisoners in 17 U.S. states went on strike on Aug. 21 by refusing to eat or work to call attention to a number of troubling issues, including dilapidated facilities, harsh sentences and other aspects of mass incarceration in America.
As we approach Labor Day, the strike places a spotlight on the questionable practice of putting prisoners to work for very low or no wages. Examples of whatincarcerated people do or have done include answering customer service phone calls, fighting wildfires, packaging Starbucks coffee and producing consumer goods such as lingerie.
But this practice may run afoul of several U.S. legal commitments – including the 13th Amendment ending slavery – and even violates voluntary codes of conduct of some of the companies involved.
The economics behind the prison strike: An inmate’s guide to earning 24 cents per hour
Salon by Michael Fischer
August 31, 2018
When I first heard about the incarcerated workers strike last week, I went to my closet and dug out some old paperwork. I still have my payroll receipts from Livingston Correctional Facility, a medium-security state prison where I served time for a nonviolent crime. When I was released from there in 2015, I left almost everything behind. I gave away my plastic bowl and my blanket, a couple cans of black beans. But I took my payroll receipts with me. They serve as a reminder of what New York State thinks I’m worth.
... It’s strange how deeply mere numbers can cut. I did my best to hold my head up when the state took away my name and replaced it with six numbers and a letter. I often stare at the dates on the calendar and tell myself I can make it to the end of each month. But the paltry amounts trickling into my commissary account settle on my shoulders in a way I can’t shake off. Of all the ways prison seeks to diminish my self-respect — strip searches, supervised urine tests — this is the one that sticks. ...
What this is about
Learning asks us to change – so that the world might be a place for all are free to thrive