Skip navigation

Prison Profiteers - Publishers Weekly 2008

Publishers Weekly, Feb. 11, 2008.
Book Review - Prison Profiteers - Publishers Weekly 2008

Publisher's Weekly 2/11/08

Prison Profiteers: Who Makes Money from Mass Incarceration

Edited by Tara J. Herivel and Paul Wright. New Press, $26.95 (352p) ISBN 9781595581679

In their follow-up to 2002’s Prison Nation: The Warehousing of America’s Poor, prisoner rights activists Herivel and Wright, with 16 other contributors, follow the money to an astonishing constellation of prison administrators and politicians working in collusion with private parties to maximize profits at the expense of taxpayers, community health and, of course, the 2.3 million inmates nationwide.

The overarching narrative, laid out clearly in the opening article by Judy Greene, finds a system increasingly dominated by select, minimally accountable private companies for whom profitability depends on the promise of more and longer convictions. As such, investment in treatment programs, education and family assistance is diverted to organizations delivering substandard food and "health care" that allows hepatitis C to reach levels one doctor compares to "the Dark Ages with the plague"; corruption runs all the way down to prison phone contracts. Cruelty and administrative stupidity come in many forms, claim the authors; guards earning $5.77 per hour beat the young inmates of a Louisiana juvenile facility while abuse schemes and political back-scratching trump efforts to police them, as evidenced by the growth of industry tradeshows and companies (such as International Taser). This is lucid, eye-opening reading for anyone interested in American justice. (Jan.)