25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on July 17, 2000
Dyer is rather a leftist, and I'm more of a libertarian, but on this subject we see eye to eye. The politicians, corrections industry, and opinion pollsters have formed an "Iron Triangle" in support of ever more incarceration. In particular, large numbers of nonviolent offenders are being locked up for no good reason at all. (The resulting clog tends to make it harder to put away those who really belong behind bars, too.) The really bad consequences of this (millions of people with grudges against society, learning a lot about violence) have yet to really be visited upon our society. But they probably will be, and it won't be the politicians and lobbyists who pay the price.
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on January 30, 2006
Joel Dyer has done an excellent job of nailing how Congress has abused the issue of crime in America and why we allow it. He's also provided an excellent argument for abandoning the private prison industrial complex and ceasing the attack on urban America and the mentally ill. As someone who works in business and in finance, it bugged my eyeballs when I realized what government is doing, allowing prisoners for profit. I've worked 32 years in a profit driven capacity and doing this with human beings, given what I know about shareholder driven environments, is unconscionable in my mind. To intentionally profit from another's pain and misfortune is heinous. America has 5% of the world's population and 25% of the worlds prisoners. We have over 1,000 prisons and 7 million people under penal control (2004). Over half of them non-violent offenders whose crime involves consenting adults (ie: life in prison for introducing a buyer to a seller of home grown pot in Indiana) or petty thievery (ie: stealing vitamins in California).
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on August 11, 2001
Journalist Joel Dyer creates an informative, critical, and iconoclastic survey of the United States' criminal justice system in The Perpetual Prisoner Machine: How America Profits From Crime. Dyer persuasively argues that contemporary criminal "justice" is disastrously impacted by violent media content, a push for privatization; an increasing dependence of politicians upon public opinion polling and campaign finance. This has all resulted in an explosion in the American prison population. The rapidly increasing numbers of prisoners, parolees and probationers is not the result of increasing crime rates, but because sectors of the American economy and political power structure find mass incarcerations to be profitable. The Perpetual Prisoner Machine is very strongly recommended reading for students of the American criminal justice system, prisoner reform movement supporters, sociologists, cultural anthropologists, and political science students.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on April 12, 2000
The sad tragedy of this book's thesis is this: Any politician who brings up the senselessness of our current criminal justice system commits political suicide. The book exposes a big secret: violent crime is down, but media coverage of violence that is up! We've doubled prison terms and quadrupled the prison population to fight a phantom war on crime.
Very well done, heartily recommenced.
Would have been five stars, but in places he does make annoying asides about violence (and God knows why, sex) in entertainment.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on November 24, 2004
Dyer's well-researched expose reveals the inner workings of the nation's prison-industrial complex, the funding of which depends on the maintenance of a respectable, beneficent public image. He explains that real-world crime statistics do not support the war on crime's claimed need for massive increases in prison construction so, to justify the diversion of public funds into prison and jail expansion, politicians are relying on public opinion polls which reflect the pervasive societal effects of media-generated crime anxiety. Law makers, primarily right-wing, have responded to the public's media-hyped fears with reassurances in the form of hard-on-crime adjustments to the sentencing structure and consequent increases in law enforcement and prison spending, all financed by the angst-ridden taxpayers. Voters have been refusing to approve traditional general-obligation bond issues for increasing prison construction, so politicians are shrewdly using Wall Street intermediaries to divert tax revenues from public education and crime-preventive social programs into prison and jail construction by means of lease-revenue or lease-payment bonds, which are tax-exempt, high-interest debt-investment instruments issued without voter approval. These lucrative prison bonds reward the investor class with sizable profits from imprisonment, provide public-debt financing for construction of corporate-owned prisons, and they require taxpayers to repay more money than general-obligation bonds, which require voter approval. As major political campaign contributors, well-funded, right-wing special-interest groups such as police and prison-guard unions, and the NRA, back politicians who agree to promote hard-on-crime sentencing policies such as "three strikes," "mandatory sentencing" and "truth in sentencing," which substantially increase the prison population and sustain the widely held perception of increasing need for prison and police funding. As a result, the number of prisons and police have grown rapidly, and police and prison guard pay has increased substantially. In California, for example, a prison guard is paid more than a tenured college professor in the state's university system which, like those in other states, has been decimated by the diversion of public funds into the prison-industrial complex. By 1994, prison spending had begun to exceed education spending for the first time in America's history. I think Dyer presents a well-articulated argument, backed with well-researched facts and figures, supporting the assertion that the prison-industrial complex is a self-serving, socially and economically destructive part of an officially sanctioned assault on the poor and people of color.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on March 7, 2005
This is one of the most important books in many years that tells the truth about our prison system. We have over 2,000,000 citizens in prison in the land of the free. Most of these citizens are non-violent and about 15% are mentally ill in need medical care. With the tax dollars that we pay we treat some non-violent prisoners in ways that are just horrible. It is done by politicians who want to get reelected and understand a terrible fact that the uninformed citizens vote for politicians who advocate building more prisons and filling them to overcrowded capacity with more prisoners. Only a small percentage of the citizenship understand the terrible cost to our society with this practice. It is a cost in billions of dollars and much more. It is also a cost in respect, common sense, decency and the goodness of the American people.
On top of this, studies indicate that about 10 -15% of prisoners are completely innocent and had absolutely nothing to do with the crime that they were put in prison for. This is because juries do not understand and respect the bedrock of the system which is "proof beyond a reasonable doubt." The large amount of reasonable doubt that is ignored by juries is shocking to the conscious of any good person.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
I ordered and read this book without total confidence, since it was written in 1999, and--as we will probably never stop hearing--things have changed considerably since 2001 (not for the better in the prison-industrial complex or in the sphere of social services).
But even 7 years after its publication, it holds up VERY well. And--sadly--the argument is not LESS cogent or the concerns less pressing.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on October 3, 2014
This is a real eye-opener, but it is also very discouraging at how prisons have become little more than big business entities with the goal being more prisoners and more jobs with the inevitable escalation in corruption.