Prevent crime

Prisons do not exist to prevent crime. This illusion is revealing itself as incarceration and imprisonment rate in the US increase exponentially. The prison population has soared to approximately 2 million people, 1 in every 130 residents, the highest rate of incarceration in the world. The prison population has increased by over 900% since 1972. The US currently appropriates $100 billion dollars per year to fight crime, even though crime rates have remained essentially the same over the past thirty years (The Sentencing Project).

The vast majority of these people are not imprisoned because they are "criminals," but rather because they have been accused of breaking one of an ever increasing number of laws designed to exert tighter social control and State repression (Buck). The prison boom is the result of US tough on crime policies that have been instituted in the past thirty years; these laws emphasize punitive reactive response to crime resulting in mass incarceration (The Sentencing Project).

More than 70% of the imprisoned population is people of color. Women, who compose 6. 3% of the prison population are the fastest growing segment of the prison population. This increase can be attributed to mandatory minimum drug sentencing laws adopted by the US Sentencing Commission in 1987. The impact of mandatory minimums on women is revealed by statistics. Ninety-two percent of women in federal prisons are serving time for non-violent offenses; sixty two percent are there on a first offense.

Sixty-six percent of women in federal prison and 33% of women in state prisons are incarcerated for drug offenses; while nearly 50% in both state and federal prisons have been convicted on conspiracy charges (The Sentencing Project). Prisons do not exist in isolation from society, but rather they are the result of economic, social, and political factors which determine society's use of prisons as part of its overall social policy.

The social policy of the US is revealed in its grossly disproportionate representation of people of color, the poor, the working class, non-European immigrants, and women who have not conformed to societal expectations (Quinney). These individuals are not criminals, but rather have been criminalized because of their status in US society. The prison system reveals much of the State's values, priorities, and power structure. The goal of rehabilitation has long been forgotten as the globalization of markets and profit-seeking has pressed US prisons to become profit seeking enterprises: the prison industrial complex.

The prison industrial complex refers to the exponential expansion of prisons and jails, with rising numbers of men and women prisoners of color (Buck). One of the greatest contributing factors to the prison-industrial complex is the extensive criminalization by politicians and the corporate controlled dominant media of communities of color, and in the representation of prisons as a solution to all social problems that have been created by the strategies of these corporations, and embraced by politicians (Davis).

Prisons are able to serve the two purposes of disappearing the undesirables while creating profit. Punishment itself is political. There is a political economy based upon the prison system, which is evidenced by the prison industrial complex. The US criminal justice system has transformed into a coercive element of the State that serves the interests of the dominant economic, social, and political classes. The political economy of the prison system in the US demonstrates this operation of political power.

The legal system asserts that the legal system and criminal law are coercive elements of the state apparatus that serve to secure the interests of the dominant, economic, social and political classes (Quinney). Prisons exist to deprive prisoners of their liberties, their agency as people, and to punish. Prisons stigmatize prisoners through moralistic denunciations and indictments based on factors such as race, ethnicity, and class. The political institution of the law provides the framework for the war on social control against oppressed nations, working class, and noncompliant women (Buck).