Where are we headed if the Prison Industrial Complex isn’t stopped?

The UK prison population has doubled in the last twenty years, and the UK currently has the most privatised prison system in Western Europe.

As we build more prisons and incarcerate more people, the Prison Industrial Complex gets stronger:

  • Powerful private companies who benefit financially from incarceration develop a vested interest in the growth of the prison system
  • More people rely on prisons for employment
  • Prisons become a more accepted part of our geographical, cultural and ideological landscape. These changes will be extremely difficult to reverse, and we risk creating a permanent carceral state – one which always seeks to control and punish people instead of caring for them, in which a large sector of the population lives in fear of incarceration.

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As our prison population grows, we approach what critics of the US prison system have called ‘mass incarceration’. The US, with 5% of the world’s population, now has 25% of the world’s prisoners.

Biased policing and sentencing have meant that out of the total prison population of 2.3 million, a very large majority are from poor communities of colour. A person with a felony conviction will find it very difficult to find employment upon their release, will be ineligible for social housing and benefits, and is barred from voting for life.

The knock-on effects on prisoners’ communities, families and children can be devastating – in a system of mass incarceration, criminalisation and imprisonment blight the lives of millions of people.

Warehousing people in prisons does not solve social problems and inequalities, it makes them worse. For every person locked up in prison, a community or family loses a member; a child may lose a parent. This will have profound effects on the wellbeing of the community, family or child, and contribute to a cycle of poverty and criminalisation.

If the P.I.C isn’t stopped and the state continues to criminalise ever increasing numbers of people, policing and incarceration will have ripples throughout our society, causing further harm to large numbers of people already affected by poverty, violence and discrimination.