prison industrial complex

variants: or less commonly prison-industrial complex

Definition of prison industrial complex

: the profit-driven relationship between the government, the private companies that build, manage, supply, and service prisons, and related groups (such as prison industry unions and lobbyists) regarded as the cause of increased incarceration rates especially of poor people and minorities and often for nonviolent crimes The exploitation of prison labor by private corporations is one aspect among an array of relationships linking corporations, government, correctional communities, and media. These relationships constitute what we now call a prison industrial complex. The term "prison industrial complex" was introduced by activists and scholars to contest prevailing beliefs that increased levels of crime were the root cause of mounting prison populations. Instead, they argue, prison construction and the attendant drive to fill these new structures with human bodies have been driven by ideologies of racism and the pursuit of profit.— Angela Y. Davis The prison-industrial complex involves U.S. for-profit prisons and their influence in American politics, she [Christia Mercer] said.— Will DeMarco [Eric] Schlosser's crucial findings are that the prison-industrial complex is a set of bureaucratic, political and economic interests that encourage increased spending on prisons, regardless of actual need.— Molly Ivins As many have argued, the prison industrial complex is an engine of inequality through the disproportionate incarceration of both poor people and people of colour …— Corinne Mason and Shoshana Magnet

First Known Use of prison industrial complex

1977, in the meaning defined above

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The first known use of prison industrial complex was in 1977

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Dictionary Entries Near prison industrial complex

prison house

prison industrial complex


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Cite this Entry

“Prison industrial complex.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Jan. 2022.

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