The prison industrial-complex: one of the main pillars of the U.S. system of exploitation
by Wilden W. (Adapted from a political study presented by the author to the Revolutionary Students Union, Salt Lake City, Utah)
The prison industrial-complex: one of the main pillars of the U.S. system of exploitation.
A class society such capitalism thrives upon its effective rule over working class and oppressed people. It’s obvious, that a mass prison system is one of the many tools employed by the U.S. government.
Mechanism of class society such as the state, were described by Vladimir Lenin in “The State and Revolution” and Lenin’s analysis of the state is still very much valid today.
But What exactly is a State?
Basically the state consists of the police, military, judicial and penal systems designed to protect the institutions of the ruling class.
The wealthy ruling class has an economic interest which is rooted in protecting the institutions of private property, their factories and places of production.
“According to Marx, the state is an organ of class rule, an organ for the oppression of one class by another; it is the creation of ‘order’, which legalizes and perpetuates this oppression by moderating the conflict between classes.”
The capitalist class has a goal. Its goal is to get the most work out of their workforce and at the same time pay that workforce the least amount of money in wages.
This system forces the vast majority of us to work for wages. We are exploited by the capitalist system just to earn enough to survive.
Capitalism breeds poverty and it refuses to provide for all people’s needs.
As unemployment, poverty, hunger and homelessness impact workers and the poor, the capitalist state is forced to imposes harsher punishments and increase state repression of working and poor people. State repression is put into place in order to protect the private capitalist institutions from the threat of an uprising by the working class and oppressed peoples.
Racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia are all institutions of the U.S. criminal/legal system. Oppressed nationalities, people of color, women and LGBTQ people have long been targeted by police repression within the United States.
So many Millions in the U.S. are punished and imprisoned due to petty-crime and nonviolent-drug-offences.
Lack of good jobs and opportunities for education inside working class communities leaves youth with few options about their personal economic security. It’s a deliberate campaign of fear and repression. This fear and repression by the U.S. capitalist state is directed against youth, undocumented workers, and people of color.
The ruling class uses the state as a means to remove the most revolutionary elements from society. This is a kind of internal/domestic U.S. imperialism which explicitly targets the nationally oppressed; Chicano, African-American and Native peoples.
1 in every 15 African American men and 1 in every 36 Hispanic men are incarcerated in comparison to 1 in every 106 white men.
Why does the U.S. incarcerate so many?
In the U.S. Laws are enforced by the police in order to protect the profits of the wealthy ruling class, not human life and human needs, a starving person can be locked up just for shoplifting the food which they and their family needs to survive. However, a police officer who kills a youth of color is rarely if ever prosecuted or incarcerated, this is because the police do not represent a threat to the capitalist-profit-system.
The U.S. has somewhere around 2.4 million people behind bars, but over the last 20 years the crime rate has actually decreased by more than 40 percent. 25 percent of the world’s prison population is housed within the U.S. and the United States incarcerates a greater percentage of the population than any country on Earth. The cost of incarcerating one person in 2010 was $31,307 per year. This system of mass incarceration costs U.S. taxpayers $63.4 billion a year.
The explosion in incarceration rates began in the early 1970s; perhaps as an indirect attack by the U.S. government on black and brown youth, youth that were at that time starting to become consciously revolutionary.
It’s well known that the U.S. government in the 60’-70s’ felt very much threatened by the increased popularity of movements like the Black Panther Party, Brown Berets, American Indian Movement.
At this time there was also a growing feminist movement and the beginnings of a brave struggle by LGBTQ peoples coming-out and openly demand equal rights.
These groups were consciously and openly fighting against the longstanding oppression which had faced their communities.
Huge Profits on the back of Prison Labor.
Today, U.S. prisons many of which are privately owned by the wealthy ruling class, most notably the Corrections Corporation of America and the GEO group, have started making shocking amounts of money.
These corporations profit off the backs of tax payers and they also profit from the captive prison labor that they exploit behind bars.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has provided CCA with millions of dollars’ worth of contracts in return for the detention of undocumented immigrants, immigrants that have not been charged with a crime, but are simply being detained until the government decides what to do with them.
Hundreds of companies nationwide now benefit from the low and sometimes no-wage labor of America’s prisoners. This labor is being harvested on a massive scale, almost a million prisoners are now making office furniture, working in call centers, fabricating body armor, taking hotel reservations, working in slaughterhouses, or manufacturing textiles, shoes, and clothing, while getting paid between 93 cents and $4.73 per day.
What can we do?
All workers should be afforded decent and equal-pay even workers that have been locked-up behind prison bars.
Right now U.S. prisoners are being used as slave labor and the for-profit prison system is expanding all around the country.
Capitalism has found increasing ways to get rich off the imprisonment and exploitation of human beings locked-up and behind bars. And, as the industrial jobs of the past quickly ‘dry up and blow away’ due to the automation and computerization brought about by the capitalist digital revolution, the U.S. industry of mass-imprisonment becomes an ever increasing way to keep the capitalist profit system rolling.
It is our job to bring this hideous system of exploitation to a permanent end! Build for people’s power assemblies! Fight to end police brutality and the U.S. Prison-Industrial Complex!