Chapter 7


Crime Control Industry


q     “The opportunities and options in the field are endless.” – from a brochure of the Univ. of Phoenix regarding a criminal justice degree

q     “If crime doesn’t pay, punishment certainly does” – from a story in the Washington Post about private prisons

q     “While arrests and convictions are steadily on the rise, profits are to be made - profits from crime.  Get in on the ground floor of this booming industry now” – a supporter of private prisons


What is the Crime Control Industry? Quotes from Karl Marx


         The criminal produces not only crime but also the criminal law

         produces the professor who delivers lectures on this criminal law

         even the inevitable text-book in which the professor presents his lectures as a commodity for sale in the market

         produces the whole apparatus of the police and criminal justice, judges, juries, etc

         Crime takes off the labour market a portion of the excess population, diminishes competition among workers, and to a certain extent stops wages from falling below the minimum, while the war against crime absorbs another part of the same population. 

         The criminal therefore appears as one of those natural “equilibrating forces” which establish a just balance and open up a whole perspective of “useful” occupations.


Crime has positive functions


         Another way of saying there are “unintended consequences” to crime

         If we did not have crime

        billions of dollars in profits would be lost

        hundreds of thousands of people would be out of work

         Fighting crime has become, in effect, a Keynesian stimulus to the economy

         In short, we need crime!!


Definition of Crime Control Industry


         The crime control industry can be defined as an assortment of public agencies and private companies that profit, to some extent, from the existence of crime.

         Some profit directly (e.g., CJ system, private security systems), while others profit indirectly (media, CJ departments, emergency rooms, insurance companies)


Some Examples

         Company called “Distance Learning Systems” with this ad: “Crime doesn’t pay, but a degree in Criminal Justice does!”

         money collected by courts through various fines

         special courses defendants can enroll in as a condition of (or in lieu of) their sentence (e.g., traffic schools, petty larceny programs)

         bail bondsmen and the insurance companies involved


Crime as a “technical” problem


         The President’s crime commission in 1967 saw crime as mostly a technical problem

         “More than 200,000 scientists and engineers have applied themselves to solving military problems and hundreds of thousands more to innovation in other areas of modern life, but only a handful are working to control the crimes that injure or frighten millions of Americans each year.”

         “Science and technology is a valuable source of knowledge and techniques for combating crime; the criminal justice system represents a vast area of challenging problems.”



Money spent to fight crime


         $185 billion in 2003 (up from about $11 billion in the early 1970s). 

         Law enforcement = $83 billion

         Corrections = $61 billion

         Courts = $41 billion




         2.3 million in 2001 vs.1.2 million in 1992 in the CJ system

         More than 1 million in law enforcement

         Millions more in private security system

         Criminal Lawyers, college professors in law schools and CJ programs


Prisons a growth industry


         at midyear 2000 there were a total of 1,668 adult correctional facilities, up from 1,464 in 1995 (a 14% increase).

         264 privately operated facilities under contract with State or Federal authorities to house prisoners -- an increase of 140% from 1995.

         during the past twenty-five years the number of state prisons went from just under 600 to more than 1,000 in the year 2000, a 70 percent increase. 

         More than 40 percent of today’s prisons did not exist 25 years ago.

         1923 - 61 prisons; 1950 - 150; 1974 -592; 2000 - 1,023.


Globalization of Social Control


         Thinking globally, we have more than 5 million employed in some performing some kind of security with more than $1 trillion spent yearly, if we include the cost of war in Iraq

         Some have considered recent changes in crime control techniques as the “militarization of criminal justice” 


The Militarization of criminal justice


         Quinney  “The legal system at home and the military apparatus abroad are two sides of the same phenomenon: both perpetuate American capitalism and the American way of life” (1974)

         Now consider Peter Kraska’s recent writings on the ideology of “militarism” which he defines as:

         “a set of beliefs and values that stress the use of force and domination as appropriate means to solve problems and gain political power, while glorifying the means to accomplish this – military power, hardware, and technology.”

         Also, it involves a “blurring of external and internal security functions leading to a more subtle targeting of civilian populations”

         And also “emphasizes solving problems that require the use of state force, the latest and most sophisticated technology, various forms of intelligence gathering, the use of “special operations” (e.g., SWAT) in both the police and within the prison system”

         Also, “the use of military discourse and metaphors (e.g., “collateral damage,” “under siege”)”

         And collaboration with “ the highest level of the governmental and corporate worlds, between the defense industry and the crime control industry”



Prison Industrial Complex


q     “In my mind there's no more recession-proof form of economic development. Nothing’s going to stop crime.”

q     City manager of Sayre, Oklahoma, which had just opened a prized new maximum- security prison.

q     “A business comes in and a year or two it can’t support itself... (a prison) is something you know is going to be there for a long time

q     Town supervisor of Chesterfield, New York

q     “There are no seasonal fluctuations, it is a non-polluting industry, and in many circumstances it is virtually invisible.”

q     A California Department of Corrections official explaining some of the benefits of putting a prison in a rural area.

q     “If crime doesn’t pay, punishment certainly does…”

            The Washington Post

         Similar to the “military industrial complex”

        Military, business (e.g., private defense contractors), and politics

         PIC is a symbiotic relationship between the prison, business and politics

         What goes into the building of a prison or jails?

        Politics – new crime legislation creates more “criminals”

        Prison – officials say we need more space

        Business – all sorts of companies vie for bids

         Architects, mortgage companies/banks, builders, utility companies, furniture companies, toilet paper companies, etc.

         Often small rural towns and counties beg for a prison to be built for “economic uplift”


Prisons as a “Market” for Capitalism


         Drive for profits from the “free market” system

         Everything is turned into a “commodity” - from the simplest products (e.g., paper and pencil) to human beings (e.g., women's bodies, slaves).

         And of course prisons and jails, along with police departments, courthouses, etc. – fighting crime is big business

        Movie and TV industry loves crime

        Evening news – “if it bleeds, it leads”

        Where would we do without crime?  We need to constantly invest new crimes and new criminals


Prison Budgets


         $34.1 billion in fiscal year 2000, up almost 80 percent over 1992.

         probation and parole budgets went from $23 mil in 1992 to $71 mil  in 2000 (+209%)

        Most increases in parole – reflection of increase in prisoners

         During the 1990s a total of 371 new prisons opened. (About 92,000 new beds were added each year.) 

        In 1999 alone, 24 new prisons were opened, at a total cost of just over $1 billion. 

         Cost of building = $105 million ($57,000 per bed, more than the starting salary of public school teachers and newly hired Assistant Professors and even some Full Professors).


Company ads


         The trade journal of the American Correctional Association, Corrections Today, has a special issue every July for the upcoming annual conference in August. 

        There are more than 200 pages of ads in this special issue.

         Prison Health Services, Acorn Engineering (stainless steel fixtures known as “Penal-Ware” -lavatories, toilets, showers, etc.), Nicholson’s BesTea with “tea for two or...two thousand...Now mass-feeding takes a giant stride forward...”; Northwest Woolen Mills, manufacturing blanket with the slogan “We've got you covered”; and many more


Web Sites


         “” (

         Kitchell (

         North Carolina Department of Corrections (


American Correctional Association (ACA)


         One of the largest national organizations in the country.

         Their annual meetings draw hundreds of vendors, usually taking up an entire floor of a hotel or convention center.  

         On the ACA web site it mentions the $50 billion or so spent each year on prisons and jails and says to companies, “Don’t miss out on this prime revenue-generating opportunity.”


Corporate Interests: the Role of ALEC


         American Legislative Exchange Council

         Demonstrates the classic connections between politics, economics and the criminal justice system.

         Members include state legislators, private corporation executives and criminal justice officials.

        More than one-third of state lawmakers in the country (2400) belong and they are, not surprisingly, mostly Republicans and conservative Democrats

         Started in 1973 by Paul Weyrich – hard line conservative and former head of the Heritage Foundation

         Instrumental in getting many punitive crime bills passed

         Corporate members include a “who’s who” of the Fortune 500, such as Ameritech, AT&T, Bayer, Bell Atlantic, Bell South, DuPont, GlaxcoSmithKline, Merck & Co., Sprint, Pfizer, among others.

         ALEC supported through various grants from such companies as Exxon Mobil, Chevron and several corporate foundations, including the Proctor and Gamble Fund, Exxon Educational Foundation, Bell Atlantic Foundation, Ford Motor Company Fund, among many others

         ALEC has sponsored more than 3,100 pieces of legislation between 1999 and 2000, with more than 400 of these bills passing


Rural Prisons: Uplifting Rural Economies?


         1960s and 1970s - four new prisons per year were built in non-metropolitan areas

        1980s - 16 per year

        1990s - 25 per year. 

         1990s - new prison was opened about every 15 days.

        More than half of all new prisons were in non-metropolitan counties, which have only 19 percent of the total population.

         Between 1980 and 2000, more than half of all rural counties added prison work to their available employment mix.

         Most prisons found in tiny communities in the middle of nowhere

         Census has included prisoners in pop. counts


Penal Colonies


         Sayre, Oklahoma (pop. 4,144) – home of the North Fork Correctional Facility

        all the prisoners have been sent by Wisconsin

         Ionia, Michigan (pop. 10,569) and Huntsville, Texas (pop. 35, 078) each have 6 prisons

         In the rural “heartland” of Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Montana, North and South Dakota spending on prisons skyrocket during the past 20 years. 

         Michigan’s “Upper Peninsula” 9 prisons and 4 minimum security prison camps

        all but 2 opened during the past 2 decades.

        2% of the state’s population lives there, but 18% of its prisoners are housed there (mostly black men from Detroit)

         Pelican Bay State Prison in Crescent City, California (pop. 4,006) – was a dying town with 20% unemployment rate before prison was built

         Upstate New York – more than 20 prisons today vs. only two 25 years ago

        One prison now occupies land formerly used for the Olympic Village at Lake Placid, while others have opened in abandoned factories and sanatoriums .

        A total of 36 prisons have been built in this state since 1980 (see discussion of Malone)

        $425 million payroll coming to an economically depressed region.” 

        Annual salary is around $36,000 for a correctional officer in this area, more than 50% higher than the average salary


From Factories to Penal Farms


         In effect, the closing of factories all over the country has led to a growth of the “surplus population” which has in turn led to the building of more prisons.

         These new prisons have been built mostly in and around areas where factories once were

         Now we have thousands employed either in these prisons or in small businesses that have sprung up to support the prisons

        Fast food restaurants, chain motels, gas stations, etc.

        in Malone, NY 4 new drugstores and 8 new convenience stores

Some Downsides to Prison Expansion


         Many studies have shown some negative results

        Boone Terre, Mo (pop. 4,039) - a new prison opened in 1995 but by 2001 the city was in debt with new businesses almost broke because state budget shortfalls delayed the opening of the prison, with an estimated loss of several million dollars

        Every state is in budget crisis, so cutting back on prison expenses has become one option, including closing some of them.  

        In Illinois, with a budget shortfall of about $1.3 billion for fiscal year 2002, the old prison at Joliet was close


Job creation?


         In most cases the new jobs do not go to locals, since they lack experience & education to qualify

         In many places where prisons have been built, most of the locally-owned businesses have closed, giving way to Wal-Mart, McDonald’s, etc. 

        Tehachapi, California (pop. just under 11,000) between Mojave and Bakersfield along route 58 where 2 prisons are located - 741 local businesses went belly up during the past decade, while being replaced by chain stores

         Study using 25 years of data from New York State rural counties looked at employment rates and per capita income

        Found no significant difference or discernible pattern of economic trends between counties that had a prison and counties did not.

        Ditto for Iowa and Texas

        Most money going to these areas comes from federal dollars because the census counts prisoners (see chapter for further discussion – esp. Florence, AZ )

        See discussion of Clintwood, Virginia and Travelocity


It pays to be a CEO of CCA and Geo


Speaking of private prisons, here are some amazing figures about executive compensation:
This is from a recent study by Donna Selman and Paul Leighton called “Punishment for Sale.”