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Criminal Justice - A Recession Proof Industry


There is a term for the symbiotic relationship that exists between government, private enterprise and the penal system called the Prison/Industrial Complex. I suspect it's called complex because of how convoluted and twisted relationship is between the different entities.

At the core of this union is the substantial stimulus that criminals provide the American economy. Besides the funeral business, the prison industry is one of the few truly recession proof facets of this society. There are over 2,239,157 people incarcerated in the United States right now! That is more prisoners than any other country in the entire world. To the best of my knowledge,  that doesn't include people on probation, parole, or enrolled in some type of community corrections program like a half-way house. My guess is if you include those mentioned, you would more than likely have between 4-6 million people in the penal system in some capacity.

Considering these numbers, it's not hard to imagine how expensive the associated costs can be.

Someone has to pay the salaries of the deputies, prison guards, cops, administrative clerks, court reporters, public defenders, prosecutors, bailiffs, judges and other employees of the courts , jails and prisons. Now add in the cost of putting those officials in uniform. Now add in the cost of feeding all the inmates in the various institutions. Then add in the cost of clothing all of those inmates. It's now easy to see how much the farmers of America who grow the food and the cotton used in linens depend on 2.2 plus million prisoners a year. It's no wonder that daytime TV is full of advertisements for private colleges that offer degrees in the "fast growing field of criminal justice*!" (*Please note that is was the first used of the word justice in the over 300 words of this article.)

I'm no conspiracy theorist, but I know that there are people and corporations that are invested in having people incarcerated. I'm sure many of you would be surprised by how many people are locked up for considerable lengths of time for simply displaying poor judgment rather than being a true menace, or even a remote threat, to society. I'm not saying that jails aren't necessary, because yes, there are people who repeatedly and routinely make poor choices when left to their own devices because on some scale they lack the social skills, moral ethics and/or the maturity to effectively, positively participate in society-at-large.

Last summer I spent a little over one month in Arapahoe County jail for a minor traffic violation. From the census that I took of my cellmates, a small percentage of the 2-1/4 million American prisoners are murderers, rapists, or otherwise violent offenders. The majority are simply commodities being traded like frozen concentrate orange juice in the movie "Trading Places." The rich get richer by serving cost cutting meals that barely fulfill the USDA's nutritional requirements to inmates who prepare their own food instead of paid kitchen staff.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is Criminal Justice 101 and the reason why D.O.C. no longer stands for Department of Corrections, but rather, Department of Commerce. I truly believe more money is being made than reformed criminals.


By: Jonathan McMillan
Last modified onSaturday, 10 July 2010 15:36

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