Digital Archive Post #7: The American Prison Systems: Just a Business

In American society, the black body is seen as the symbol of a criminal. This was established hundreds of years ago, by a white supremacist justice system, emerging from slavery. Unfortunately, black individuals are still facing discrimination and oppression today. One of the many ways systematic racism is portrayed is through American incarceration systems. According to “The Economics of the American Prison System,” private prisons today make around $7.4 billion a year in profit. Rather than trying to help individuals who are struggling, our American society has decided to lock them up instead, possibly even for a crime they did not commit. The goal of these private prisons is to house more prisoners, resulting in a larger profit. The prison system is a corporation, not a rehabilitation facility. These numbers are unacceptable and activists are continuing to fight for prison reform.

Similarities of Prison Systems to Slavery

One of the most impactful reformers is activist Angela Davis. In Angela Davis’ Race, Gender and Prison History excerpt, she illustrates racial discrimination in the penal systems, specifically to the black male. She emphasizes the increase of police surveillance in low-income, black communities. The process of incarceration begins in these communities where there is an ongoing cycle of imprisonment within families. Young boys see their fathers, uncles and cousins being locked up and believe this to be their fate as well. Davis correlates the profit of prisons from those who are incarcerated is the exact same thing as slavery. Black individuals experience brutality and similar treatments to slaves during slavery. The punishments of slavery have been reinforced in the incarceration systems and the black body continues to be a source of profit to the white American ran prisons. All of society is connected and this oppression begins within black communities.

Racism in American Prison Systems

A collection of archives on topics throughout the Cowell Core Course: Imagining Justice