Shut Down the
Prison-Industrial Complex

from the International Action Center


The U.S. Prison-Industrial Complex (PIC) is the vicious, ever-growing, domestic component of imperialist globalization. Simply put, the PIC is the fusion of prison construction, prison labor, the profits both of them create and their impact on society.

Since 1991, the rate of violent acts has decreased by 20 percent. But the number of people in prison has increased by 50 percent. The incarceration of such a huge sector of the U.S. population is rooted within the laws of capitalist economics -- that is, the insatiable drive to make profits at the expense of human development.

The U.S. has the largest prison population in the industrialized world -- 2 million people -- and it is growing by leaps and bounds in the current period of so-called economic prosperity. The destructive role of the PIC in the lives of poor people in the U.S. mirrors what the IMF is doing to destroy poor people throughout the world, especially in the developing countries.

The expansion of private prisons is considered by many experts to be the most profitable industry in the U.S. today. The Corrections Corporations of America, the country's largest private-prison conglomerate, generates huge profits by operating 46 penal institutions in 11 states, including seven juvenile facilities. Many of the most influential Wall Street firms and investment banks, from American Express to Smith Barney pour an estimated $35 billion annually into supporting prison bond issues, construction and the privatization of prisons.

How do the prisons create profit? Many prisoners are paid only pennies an hour to build houses for the elderly and the disabled, wire schools for computers, fight forest fires, and so on. Between 1980 and 1994 the value of goods produced by prisoners rose from $392 million to $1.1 billion. The PIC is the second-largest employer in the U.S. Corporations, such as American Express and Microsoft, profit off prison sweatshops. This slave labor takes the jobs of unionized workers who could be doing the same tasks. Unions should make it their business to organize these prisoners into unions so that they aren't used as scab labor.

The unpaid labor derived from African slavery for nearly three centuries provided the platform for the accumulation of capital by a tiny segment of the U.S. population. U.S.-style apartheid continued legally for another 100 years after the abolition of slavery in 1863-65. Today the prison system is the institutional legacy for extreme racist repression.

One in every four Black men is likely to be caught up in the vicious web of the criminal IN-justice system at some point during his lifetime. One out of 14 Black men is currently incarcerated. The number of women prisoners--80,000 of them--has grown 12-fold since 1970. Seventy-five percent of these women are mothers.

The prison-industrial complex cannot be separated from the epidemic of racist police brutality sweeping the country. Nor can it be separated from the killing machine called death row. Almost 4,000 people will be executed in the coming years. There are no rich people on death row. Just as police brutality and police murder never effect affluent communities, the death penalty is an instrument of terror inflicted by those who hold power against working class and poor people.

Our demonstrations against the IMF and World Bank this week are an act of solidarity with the 1.2 billion people who go to bed hungry in the developing world because of austerity programs imposed by the IMF. This same struggle is raging inside the borders of the United States, most dramatically by the use of state repression and prisons against poor people at home. We will march to shut down the IMF and World Bank, and on Saturday, April 15, we will march to shut down the prison-industrial complex.


International Action Center 39 West 14th Street, Room 206 New York, NY 10011 email: web: phone: 212 633-6646 fax: 212 633-2889

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