Monday, March 2, 2009

Prisons in the Economic Downturn

The construction of a new prison is about to begin soon in Alaska. An article in New York Times states that 1 in every 31 adults is in prison, which brings the total number to 7.3 million American people. While most budgets are getting cut in the economic downturn, the budgets for prisons continue to rise up to a total of 47 billion dollars in 2008. According to the director of Pew’s Public Safety Performance Project Adam Gelb, the reason to maintain the growing cost for prisons is that “cutting them may appear to save a few dollars…it will fuel the cycle of more crime, more victims, more arrests, more prosecutions, and still more imprisonment.”

One inmate prisoner costs an average of 29,000 dollars a year while average cost for a parolee and or probationer is around 1,250 to 2,750 dollars. But states have shown a preference for prison spending even it’s much more expensive than community correctional programs. The executive director of the Association for the Advancement of Evidence Based Practice Peter Greenwood stated that “prisons and jails, along with powerful prison guard unions, service contracts, and high-profile sheriffs and police chiefs, are in a much better position to protect their interests than are parole and probation officers.”

Are prisons profit-chasing corporations? Or are they still parts of the society that maintain the orders for us? Is it right when we have to cut off budgets for education and health care to increase the budget for prisons? How can parolees and probationers find their places in society? Prison Spending Outpaces All but Medicaid States urged to improve probation, parole programs
The picture is of a Sacramento, CA prison. Prison officials there are asking the state to consider alternatives to prison due to the unmanageable crowding.


  1. Prisons are extremely profitable. The fact is that the prison population is disproportionately made up of black males. In a society that is controlled by white males, it is more beneficial to keep the money flowing into the prison system rather than into community programs. Not only does this system contribute to capitalism, but it also maintains the racial hierarchy.

  2. Conflicted, I urge you to cruise the US Dept of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics so that you can have a source to cite. You will find some other stats there that both legitimate and question your claim that the prison system maintains capitalism. Let me pose a rhetorical question to you. If the prison industry contributes to capitalism as you claim, why, then, are men more likely to be imprisoned than women? How does capitalism benefit from mass imprisonment of black and Hispanic men? How is capitalism affected by the imprisonment of women? Some questions to ponder as you muse about your theoretical conflictedness... :)

  3. Ever, check your facts again. Your second sentence seemed so far out of whack that I checked your NYTimes source. You should revise your second sentence to reflect reality.

  4. Women are most valued for reproductive purposes in capitalism. If they were incarcerated at the rate men are, the next generation of workers would become dangerously limited. Capitalism benefits from the mass incarceration of black and hispanic men because the elite are made-up of majority white men. These are the very men in power who make the laws, as well as benefit from prison for profit. shows very good statistics for incarceration rates. In 2007, 3,138 black males per 100,000 were locked up; 1,259 hispanic males per 100,000; a mere 481 white males per 100,000. This is staggering because 70% of the population in most states is white according to

  5. I do not think that it is right to cut off budgets to education and healthcare and increase budgets for prisons, but this is how our society tends to work. Which is why i agree with conflicted theorist's comments on capitalism and the elites maintaining their hierarchy. The prison industry contributes to capitalism because white males are at the top of the privileged chain. Even though men are more likely to be in prison than women, as conflicted theorist mentioned that majority of the men in prison are minorities, (ex. Black and Hispanic) so even though men are in prison more, the white elites are still in power. I also agree with conflicted theorist's comment on maintaining racial hierarchy.
    In the posted article it states about cutting prisons budgets, “cutting them may appear to save a few dollars…it will fuel the cycle of more crime, more victims, more arrests, more prosecutions, and still more imprisonment.” I dont know if i agree that by cutting the budget it will lead to more crime, more arrests, and so on... When I hear statements like this, I often refer back to what would my Deviance class say??

  6. The simple fact, as stated by conflicted theorist, is that the prison system is profitable. Those in favor of building more prisons claim that they need to build them to house all the prisoners, but then the trouble comes when there aren't enough prisoners to fill these newly built institutions. So what do we do? We imprison more people.
    I agree with conflicted theorist's claim that the disproportional incarceration rates, along with the prison system contributes to capitalism. It is profitable to disproportionately imprison black and hispanic males because it perpetuates the idea that these particular groups are dangerous individuals more prone to crime than the rest of white America, which therefore validates their disproportionate prosecution and incarceration rates, and the need to build more prisons to house them away from the "civilized" people.
    So one may ask what is the benefit of perpetuating this type of belief, and who contributes to this continued illusion? There is a whole industry, an entire sector of the economy, that profits from these incorrect assumptions. The media, through crime shows that perpetuate stereotypes of the oversexed, violent black or hispanic man, or the news media that everyday reports on the heinous crimes that seem to be committed largely by minorities, all contribute to the security industry. Millions of dollare are poured into an industry that is devoted to providing different kind of security systems - home/car/personal - all so as to give people a little more sense of security. Why are they so afraid? Because the media tells them they should be.
    The article provided gives the perfect example of how we are constantly fed this idea. It says that if you cut the prison budget, it will save a few dollars, but in the end it will cost more because it will fuel more crime. How can one logically make such a conclusion? This is the type of subtle influence that causes people to incorrectly think that they are in danger, mostly from male minorities, and therefore justifies the disproportionate prosecution and incarceration rates of minorities.
    I often wonder while watching TV, would people be so interested in these shows if they played less on stereotypes, and were more factually accurate?

  7. Recent examinations on Alaska economy have shown that Alaska is in good standing mainly because most of our financial institutions have not been impacted yet by the scandolous financial uproar the lower 48 is experiencing with the Fannie May, Freddie Mac, AIG.. etc fallouts. Yet being the operative word.

    New York Life Insurance co in Alaska has been approached by the failing financial institutions to help bail them out - or merge with them, but the NYL insurance institution has backed out of any kind of deals.

    The institutions in Alaska who have merged with questionable financial institutions have since folded. Fortunately, the structural functions the Alaska economy is operating under are pretty strong. Mainly the oil companies who shoulder the majority of the economic burden, and insurance co's like New York Life, the tourism industy, fishing industry and many small businesses that have remained local.

    With the future tourism industry suspected to dwindle, that institution will ultimately not support the economy in the rural cities. 1.8 billion dollars came in from outside visitors.

    Unfortunately, there are the deviants of our society that will break our laws we have been conditioned to follow. Research on Alaska community jails have not been ensured or supported very well as the Alaska Community Jails Statewide Research Consortium has found. The catch 22 for Alaska.

    The majority of those incarcerated are not native populations in the urban prisons, but are the majority in the villages which are 95% native.

  8. Some excellent sociological insights and discussion. Good work. This comment section is now closed.