the prison industrial complex

Day 92

Feeling sad tonight.  That life can’t be easier.

My father in law is in jail.

As a child of the islands he ran barefoot,

and never went to school past 6th grade.

Loves buttered bread and hot coffee,

gave my husband his strong hands and clever mind,

his warm heart too.

He has golden brown skin, and crinkles next his eyes when he smiles,

eyes that are always sad.

I see him reflected in Wil’s eyes, when he looks at me,

and now,


my son’s.

Locked up 23 hours a day,

for crimes he committed, sure,

petty theft, common crookedness,


Due to circumstances that left him no choice,

Cultural, socioeconomic, psychological.

A different kind of survival.

Separation from land and culture,

leaves deep wounds,

emptiness that just can’t be filled.

And all we have to give a man with broken- ness inside,

is bars,

3 squares a day,

a bible,

cold floors.

And more broken-ness.

Ours is a system that rejects,

instead of rehabilitates,

exploits instead of educates.

A system created to subjugate,

separate, isolate, and manipulate.

The ones who need our help the most,

we throw to the wolves,

watch as the buzzards slowly pick them apart,

and their bones bleach white in the sun.

A grown man should not have to beg

for freedom.

Fallen through the cracks, yes.

But what happens when the cracks are so large,

there’s nothing left to stand on?

The slave trade is alive and well.

Ten years ago there were only five private prisons in the country, with a population of 2,000 inmates; now, there are 100, with 62,000 inmates. It is expected that by the coming decade, the number will hit 360,000, according to reports.

What has happened over the last 10 years? Why are there so many prisoners?

“The private contracting of prisoners for work fosters incentives to lock people up. Prisons depend on this income. Corporate stockholders who make money off prisoners’ work lobby for longer sentences, in order to expand their workforce. The system feeds itself,” says a study by the Progressive Labor Party, which accuses the prison industry of being “an imitation of Nazi Germany with respect to forced slave labor and concentration camps.”

The prison industry complex is one of the fastest-growing industries in the United States and its investors are on Wall Street. “This multimillion-dollar industry has its own trade exhibitions, conventions, websites, and mail-order/Internet catalogs. It also has direct advertising campaigns, architecture companies, construction companies, investment houses on Wall Street, plumbing supply companies, food supply companies, armed security, and padded cells in a large variety of colors.

According to the Left Business Observer, the federal prison industry produces 100% of all military helmets, ammunition belts, bullet-proof vests, ID tags, shirts, pants, tents, bags, and canteens. Along with war supplies, prison workers supply 98% of the entire market for equipment assembly services; 93% of paints and paintbrushes; 92% of stove assembly; 46% of body armor; 36% of home appliances; 30% of headphones/microphones/speakers; and 21% of office furniture. Airplane parts, medical supplies, and much more: prisoners are even raising seeing-eye dogs for blind people.

Ninety-seven percent of 125,000 federal inmates have been convicted of non-violent crimes. It is believed that more than half of the 623,000 inmates in municipal or county jails are innocent of the crimes they are accused of. Of these, the majority are awaiting trial. Two-thirds of the one million state prisoners have committed non-violent offenses. Sixteen percent of the country’s 2 million prisoners suffer from mental illness.”

Follow the money as usual I suppose,

the slave owners may look different now,

but the shackles are the same.

Biting into wrists and ankles,

cold, heavy, shiny steel,

wrapped around our hearts.

Thank you for listening,



photo by wilson alvarez

photo by wilson alvarez




2 responses to “the prison industrial complex

  1. dreaming
    of gardens
    for men & for women
    there was a monastic culture here in the U.S.
    sending my heartfelt blessings
    your way
    towards your heart
    i don’t have any answers
    maybe i need to be more proactive…
    thank you for writing

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