Policy goals: End the Criminalization of People of Color

End Prison Industrial Complex

These folks started making contracts with states, and they had to protect their investments, so the states were required to keep these prisons filled, even if nobody was committing a crime. And in the late 80s and early 90s, this became a growth industry…It was absolutely a model, guaranteed to succeed.”

Bryan Stevenson, Equal Justice Initiative

The Prison Industrial Complex, comprised of elite public and private institutions, has built its wealth and power by incarcerating and stripping money from Black and Brown people. In 2017, mass incarceration cost $182 billion a year, much of which was borne by incarcerated people and their families, and most of it deposited into the accounts of elite corporate institutions and the people who control them. Elite institutions that profit from this system include:

  • Prison operators (GEO Group and CoreCivic are the largest prison operators)
  • Bail bonds and bail insurance companies
  • Telecommunications companies (Global Tel Link, CenturyLink, and Securus)
  • Food and commissary companies
  • Prisoner transportation companies
  • Healthcare providers (Wexford Health Sources and Corizon Health)
  • Commercial banks (Wells Fargo, Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, BNP Paribas, SunTrust, and US Bancorp)
  • Private equity firms (Audax Group, Apex Partners, and HIG Capital)

The profits extracted by these institutions are gained by the construction and operation of prisons, food and telecom services, healthcare, bail bonds, and the commercial financing of the entire system. Most egregiously, the entire system is funded by extracting money from the same people of color it incarcerates, through court fines and fees, cash bail, debtors’ prisons, and the purchase of basic necessities like food and phone calls. Over $50 million in debt is carried by about 10 million people due to their involvement in the US Justice System. Many of these fines and fees are imposed upon low-wealth people of color who cannot afford to pay them. In 44 states, failure to pay these fines and fees is punishable by further prison time, placing people in a vicious debtors’ prison. The Prison Industrial Complex must end! Help us identify the right policies that will put us on that path. Here are some ideas we have identified so far:

policies for consideration:
  • Ban private prisons
  • End the practice of charging the incarcerated and their families for core human needs, such as food, pharmaceuticals, toiletries, and phone calls to family
  • Incentivize the ending of municipal fines and fees
  • Ban debtors’ prisons
  • Ban cash bail