Prison-Industrial Complex Blamed For Rising Inmate Rolls


Why does the U.S. prison population continue rising as the crime rate drops? That and other corrections issues were discussed yesterday by the authors of two new books: John Irwin, who wrote “The Warehouse Prison” (Roxbury, 2005), and Marc Mauer, author of “Race to Incarcerate” (New Press, second edition, 2006). To Irwin, the explanation is the “prison-industrial complex,” private prison operators and organizations like California’s powerful prison guard union with a financial interest in expanding correctional facilities.

Mauer said that some major reform initiatives have not come to fruition despite declining public support for the death penalty, a “significant shift” in drug policy favoring treatment, and “strong bipartisan support” for legislation pending in Congress to support prisoner re-entry projects. In his book, Mauer describes such changes as “tinkering on the edges of criminal justice and sentencing reform.” Irwin, a one time offender-turned-criminologist, lamented that prisons are “becoming filled with long-termers” who are worn down in tightly controlled institutions and “lose their ability to make it on the outside.” Mauer and Irwin spoke at the Open Society Institute in Washington, D.C.


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