From Publishers Weekly
In their follow-up to 2002's Prison Nation: The Warehousing of America's Poor, prisoner rights activists Herivel and Wright, with 16 other contributors, follow the money to an astonishing constellation of prison administrators and politicians working in collusion with private parties to maximize profits at the expense of taxpayers, community health and, of course, the 2.3 million inmates nationwide. The overarching narrative, laid out clearly in the opening article by Judy Greene, finds a system increasingly dominated by select, minimally accountable private companies for whom profitability depends on the promise of more and longer convictions. As such, investment in treatment programs, education and family assistance is diverted to organizations delivering substandard food and "health care" that allows hepatitis C to reach levels one doctor compares to "the Dark Ages with the plague"; corruption runs all the way down to prison phone contracts. Cruelty and administrative stupidity come in many forms, claim the authors; guards earning $5.77 per hour beat the young inmates of a Louisiana juvenile facility while abuse schemes and political back-scratching trump efforts to police them, as evidenced by the growth of industry tradeshows and companies (such as International Taser). This is lucid, eye-opening reading for anyone interested in American justice.
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Prison is big business, from contracts for construction and food and health service to transportation and providing guards. Prisoner rights advocates Herivel and Wright offer a collection of essays examining every aspect of incarceration and economics, from the effect on rural economies (jobs and higher population counts for the census) to urban economies (the social effect on poor neighborhoods with an overabundance of men rotating in and out of the prison system). Banks and brokerage houses provide the financing, and contractors provide everything from Tasers to aspirin. Lobbyists supporting prison-related industries influence federal and state governments with an eye toward profits more than criminal justice. Contributors analyze the exploitation of prison labor to support the military and the effect on free-market interests. Beyond the economics, contributors examine the “commodification” of prison culture, including the influence on hip-hop music and linkages between faith-based programs and prison privatization. This is an important analysis of a troubling social trend that has not been widely publicized. --Vernon Ford
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