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The Prison-Industrial Complex

Updated: Aug 7, 2020

If you are a drug user in the United States, you have either thought about it or experienced it first hand. Jail. Prison. The Penitentiary. The place where they put drug users as punishment for their desire to use, or for their disease, or for trauma in their pasts. And people make a killing off of us, or rather, off of the machine that we sustain: the prison-industrial complex.


Once convicted, they put us to work for little or no pay per the 13th Amendment, where we make $2 BILLION worth of goods EVERY YEAR which they sell for a profit. Plus 8% of prisons are now privately owned, meaning they profit off of the prisoners even when they don't work for free--they get it done for less than the state pays them, then pocket the remaining cash, sometimes thousands of dollars-per-inmate.

We spend billions of dollars every year on illegal and untaxed drugs, and then we spend billions more on locking each other up when we are caught using them. And all of that cash supports a massive system of places and people: guards, jails, maintenance, transportation, food, clothing, medical treatment--we spend between $35,000-$65,000 per inmate, depending on the state. That's more than many of us spend on ourselves living in the free world. That fact that we are spending it on criminals means we must really think they deserve it. Right?


Half of all federal inmates are locked up for drugs (92,000 total). And 200,000 state level inmates have drug charges listed as their most serious crime.


That's a lot of prisoners of war!


Check out Episode 12: The Prison-Industrial Complex for more. And for citations to back up all the facts presented in this episode, see the episode transcript below.

Episode Prison Industrial Complex
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Next episode I will be talking to activist, author and former-inmate Chandra Bozelko about her time in prison, including her $1.75-per-day job in the kitchen. For a preview, check out some of Bozelko's recent work on her column, The Outlaw.


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