Each day the United States population grows by around 8,500 people, or .097% a year. (CIA Factbook) The rate of people going to prison however is not staying constant. It is drastically increasingly. William Smith Ph.D claims that “Thirty years ago, the prison population was approximately one-eight its current size.” From 1971 to 1994, the amount of public spending on prisons and prisoners increased 93.6 percent, bringing the spending from 2.3 billion to 34.2 billion dollars. (Prison Industrial Complex in America – Full Employment by William L. Smith Ph. D.) As the costs grow increasingly higher, states turn to private companies in order to save money. In a study by James Blumstein, director of the Health Policy Center, Vanderbilt Institute for Public Policy Studies, between the years of 1999 and 2004 states were able to save up to 15 percent on their budget for prisons by using some form of privatized company assistance. So what does all this mean? This means that the government is no longer the only entity with a stake in the prison system and private companies are able to profit off of an increase in the population within prisons. The way to increase the population in prisons is to take advantage of the current social stratification in the United States.
As seen in the Sociology textbook written by Ferrante, it is estimated that 32 percent of all black males and 17 percent of all Hispanic males will spend time in prison yet only 5.9 percent of all white males will spend time in prison. (Ferrante Page 214) African Americans and Hispanics, along with other minorities, are far more likely to be incarcerated for their crime instead of receiving community service or other non-prison punishments. Between 1991 and 1998, the rate of violent crime has decreased by 20 percent while the number of people in prison has increased by 50 percent. This shows that more non-violent crimes are being commited and people are going to prison instead of being rehabilitated for these actions. Why is this? The “War on Drugs” that came about in the Reagan era increased the amount of arrests for possession of drugs while doing little to stop the violent drug suppliers. This war on drugs was perpetuated by a need of politicians to appear strong on crime fueled by a “significant lobbying force” (Ferrante page 215) of the prison industrial complex.
How was this need brought about? With the privatization of prisons and the emergence of the prison industrial complex extreme profit potential was seen by the corporations. When this happens, lobbying occurs. Lobbyists are able to influence the government’s policies and have more influence based on how much money they have. Corrections Corporations of America, the largest private corrections corporation in the United States, has numerous ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council which consists of both legislators and corporations. This is where the anti-immigration law for Arizona was drafted. The Corrections Corporation of America has stated that this immigration policy will assist in a substantial portion of their revenues. In the first half of 2007, the Corrections Corporation of America spent 1,320,000 dollars on lobbying. Corrections Corporation of America also donated 106,614 dollars to Federal candidates in 2006, 85% going to Republicans in favor of laws that would benefit them and increase the number of people in Prison.
What we can infer from this is that the prison industrial complex influences the laws we have and who goes to prison. By taking advantage of those most likely to be placed in prison (Hispanics in the case of Arizona and minorities in the case of the drug war) the corporations can ensure that they will continue to increase the amount of prisoners in prisons and keep their profits up. Under the guise of helping the government save money, these corporations are extremely detrimental to the rehabilitation of the poor, minorities, and others likely to be incarcerated. As long as it is profitable to people for people to be in prison, more and more people will be going to prison. The social issues will only persist as prisoners come out of prisons as many studies have shown that minorities have more trouble re-adapting to society than whites.