Whole Towns Living Off the Prison Teat

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[Mass Incarceration] [Economics] [Colorado]
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Whole Towns Living Off the Prison Teat

I am a prisoner of the Cañon City Complex, a “campus” with seven prisons holding up to 10,000 victims of Colorado’s giant injustice system. A few weeks ago I went out for a day trip to a doctor in the town next to the complex, Cañon City. Much of the town is new, businesses like motels, fast food joints, etc. line the main drag.

When sitting in the doctor’s office I asked the prison guard who was there, “who or what financially supports all the people and businesses in this town?” He replied, “The Cañon City Complex”. Yup, a whole town that survives (mostly) because of mass imprisonment. Shut down the prisons and the town would quickly become a ghost town.

We think about all the people that suck at the teat of The System, from cops to lawyers, to all jail/prison personnel, to parole officers. But few consider all the people/businesses that have a symbiotic relationship with the teat suckers. Providers of all the goods and services that they use from food, to clothing, to auto repair. A great mass of people around the United $tates who will always cry “law and order,” and who will oppose any reform efforts to reduce the number of people arrested every year (10 million plus per Law Prof. Dan Canon), the number of people imprisoned, or the length of the sentences.

My thesis is: If you are an activist/reformer who wants to change The System, then you need to know exactly what you are up against. You cannot have any real success unless you do.


MIM(Prisons) adds: We agree with that thesis. And this comrade’s report aligns with our past research on the U.$. prison economy and what is driving it. It has become chic to talk about the “Prison Industrial Complex” as if there are a bunch of big corporations whose profits are driving mass incarceration in this country, like the ones that drive military production and war (militarism). As this comrade describes, the prison system is more like the New Deal. But instead of funding jobs to build roads to improve transport for commerce, they are funding jobs to build prisons for population control. In this way a goal of the state is accomplished, while shuffling superprofits from the Third World to the Amerikans in these prison towns doing unproductive labor whether as prison guards, salespeople, cashiers, or insurance agents.

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