Life Sentence.

Chained to dollar

What is the real purpose of prison in the United States?

Are people really in prison to be punished? Do we imprison people to keep criminals off of the streets? Is it all about the money? Suppression?

It’s no secret: America has one of the worst prison systems in the world, while also maintaining the largest incarceration rate in the WORLD.  Not to mention the ridiculous racial disparity in the incarceration rate of African American/Hispanic males,  the United States also has some of the worst prison/jail rehabilitation programs in the world, leading to extremely high rates recidivism rates. Basically, if you go to prison or jail once in this country you are almost certainly going back. Our prison system is designed so that if you are convicted of a felony once, that conviction follows you forever, essentially ruining your life and damning you to almost certainly return to jail or prison.


It would be of no benefit for them to truly attempt to rehabilitate you in prison. It’s almost as if they want you to come back.  They understand the vulnerability of convicted felons and other criminals, and know how easy it is for them to return to prison, due to inevitable poor economic status upon reentry into society. Once you receive a felony, use lose a number of rights including the right to vote, travel abroad, and many other social benefits including welfare benefits (food stamps, SSI). After being  convicted of a felony, its almost impossible to get a real job and start over. What can you do? All of the basic options  that other people in society have are stripped from you and you are left with nothing but going back to what got you in the system in the first place. You are stuck. It becomes a cycle. It is extremely unfair and appears to be targeted at minorities, who were already poor and disadvantaged before going in and will almost certainly be in worst condition upon exit. How can you expect someone to be able to live off of a low to minimum wage job (which is usually all that is available to ex-inmates)? You can’t, they’ll go back to what they were doing to get them in there.

Who benefits from this? Our community certainly doesn’t benefit from the inclusion of individuals who are rendered useless due to the social penalties that come with a conviction and the harsh conditions that are experienced within a prison.

The answer to that?

The prison corporations, the bond industry, and our government. Yes, there are literally prison corporations.

America is truly all about the money, this is no secret. Our prison system is so massive and such an extensive part of our lives, that it has  actually become a huge industry. With the inception of private prisons after the Regan administration and his Drug Laws (see crack roots), the private prison sector has turned into an almost billion dollar industry. You can literally buy stocks in prisons. It is mind boggling to think that people actually make money off of the incarceration of others. (I feel as if incarceration isn’t even a strong enough word to use anymore. How about calling it the systematic destruction of someone’s life?).

But in the eyes of corporate america and “the 1%” (or in this case .00001% who have control over this sector of the economy) , what would they do if they stopped receiving prisoners?How would the bond industry hold up if Jamal isn’t getting arrested for an ounce of weed every day and paying that $1000 bond?There’s no way they could benefit from a reduction of inmates, right??  Absolutely not. Jamal makes Tom some money when he goes to jail. (14 billion dollars actually) Jamal has to go to jail and keep going to jail. This is America, not Wonderland.

I’ve always questioned the judicial system convictions and incarcerations of non violent criminals, and I finally see why. Not to say that crimes aren’t wrong and criminals shouldn’t be punished, but your life should not be ruined for say, 1.5 ounces of weed (the felony amount in NC). This is not by any means to say rapists, murders, and other real criminals of that sort should not be incarcerated and have rights stripped. There is a special place in hell for them. This is to say that our country should stop allowing entities to profit off of the downfall and loss of well being of another  individual. I wish more people would look deeper into the horror that is the US Prison/Jail System and stand up for those that are arrested more so for their money than their crimes.

It is sad to say that as a black male one of my top 5 goals in life is to never be arrested and jailed. It’s a harsh reality

I will not be 1 in 15.


By Keith Haynie, Editor in Chief


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