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Overpopulation and Privatization of Prisons


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Prisons in the United States: a business in its own respect, as it follows the business model much like any other company, which entails the mindset that profit is always a priority, and from an inmate’s perspective, this can be especially frustrating.

To add even more problems to the mix, Dr. Vivian Smith, associate criminology professor at Cabrini College, said, “There are many large Fortune 500 companies that benefit from the products of prison labor, such as IBM, Microsoft, Victoria’s Secret and Starbucks to name a few, and even smaller-scale companies.”

Some prisoners though don’t make a dime for their work, according to the Nation, which notes that some inmates receive time off their sentences instead. However, the companies that do indeed pay workers can get up to 40 percent of the money back in taxpayer-funded reimbursements.

A hot topic in the United States today is job shortages, and many small jobs are not only outsourced overseas, but to the incarcerated as well, who are making little to no money to begin with. For instance, in 2012, Russia filed a report that claimed they have hundreds of companies nationwide that now benefit from the low, and sometimes no-wage labor, of America’s prisoners.

Holiday goods, for example, are just one of the products of prison labor. Since companies may see an influx of orders for the Christmas season, they will outsource the excess requests to such organizations.

There is also a cycle when it comes to large investors involved in government programs like some of the participating Fortune 500 companies. Large-influence companies will lobby against policies that may reduce what is termed as “mandatory minimums,” which will keep the accused in prison for longer amounts of time.

This inflexible, “one-size-fits-all” sentencing law may seem like a quick-fix solution for crime, but they undermine justice by preventing judges from fitting the punishment to the individual and the circumstances of their offenses.

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Mandatory sentencing laws cause federal and state prison populations to soar, leading to overcrowding, exorbitant costs to taxpayers and diversion of funds from law enforcement.

Before mandatory minimums, Smith said, a convicted felon may be sentenced for burglary for a range of one to five years. The length of sentencing is up to the judge, and his/her sentencing depends on many factors, which include whether or not the convict is married and/or has children, if aggravated assault was an element or even if there are prior convictions.

Since the mandatory sentencing laws that have been implemented as a part of what is nicknamed the “Crime Bill of 1994,” a convict found guilty of burglary must serve the minimum five-year sentence regardless of varying factors.

As Stephan Clyburn, professor of political science at West Chester University, points out, for many, this can serve as a problem, not only for the family and friends of the prisoner, but for the prison infrastructure itself. Mandatory minimum sentencing serves as one of the largest factors in prison overcrowding, where the capacity for low- to high-security prisons has been reached.

According to Marc Mauer, executive director of The Sentencing Project, when an employer hires somebody and sees that the applicant has been involved in a felony, their application will go directly into into the trash, which may lead them back into a life of crime and poverty.

Knowing all of this, the only place where current or ex-convicts are guaranteed to find work is in prison, as a good portion of the entry-level work available has now been outsourced to the labor of private and public prisons, which only contributes to the lack of opportunity to attain more wealth, making the inequality gap larger.





Businesses give people in society an opportunity to become employed.  Without these businesses, whether they be large or small, there simply would be fewer places of employment.

Because the wealth in the country is growing primarily in the top three percent, there has been a disparity in the amount of middle class jobs throughout the country.  

The wealthy keep accumulating money and the poor keep running into debt, thus erasing the entire middle class. This has been proven so much so that society is not even sure how to define the social status.

According to Pew Research, 69 percent of Americans said that one does not need a college education to be considered middle class.

However, 89 percent said that in order to gain the middle class status, one has to have a secure job.

In an age where nothing is guaranteed due to budget cuts and businesses going under, what is the realistic expectation for companies today?

Klaus Volpert, mathematics professor at Villanova University, believes that where money falls seems to be situational to whose hands it may fall into.

“Imagine if you can distribute all the money in the world evenly,” Volpert said.  “Inequality will be back in an instant because one man will take his money to the bank, the other will take it to the bar.”

Is the middle class truly missing or is it just the type of characters that fall into it?

“Inequality is woven into the fabric of life, it’s already there in the different abilities and skills and initiatives and working habits of people,” Volpert said.  “We have to recognize that and the idea that we can all have equal money is utopian and probably not really even desirable.”

In order for society to function, businesses, both small and large, must find ways to operate.

Many large corporations are doing away with jobs that are singular in responsibilities and skill sets.  

Companies now find that potential employees can handle the job of three people, thus leading to layoffs and reorganizations of departments.  

Small businesses run under similar stresses.

Debora Smith, three-year small business owner of The Right Fit, knows the struggles of having to manage a company and all that goes with it.

“In order to run a business, you have to love what you’re doing,” Smith said. “Because it’s hard and not very rewarding in the beginning.”

According to a study performed by Pew Research, 86 percent of Gen Xers and millennials agreed that since 2010, small businesses have positively helped the job market.

However, their views on large corporations are much different.  Only 36 percent of those questioned believed that large corporations are helping today’s economy.

“When you’re in a larger company, unions take precedent,” Smith said. “It may seem more secure but in a smaller company it’s more personal. You don’t just seem like a number.”

When working with topics such as business, inequality is inevitable. One cannot control fairness in a workplace due to the hierarchy of positions and responsibilities.  

However, when it comes to wealth, the U.S. needs to work to close the gap between the top one percent and the rest of the working-class.




There’s no secret about it, the types of jobs people have, the wages they make and the businesses in this country directly affect the issue of wealth inequality in America. Employment in the United States is laced with many factors, which work to create more of a division between the working class and those of a higher economic standing, and gender and race inequalities in the workplace are creating different classes of working Americans.

According to the Urban Institute, whites have seven times more wealth than African Americans and six times more than Hispanics.

Currently, the federal minimum wage is causing many Americans to rely on government-funded programs. “If you make the minimum wages, you don’t make enough to actually be at the official poverty line,” William E. Spriggs, chief economist of AFL-CIO, said.

The way businesses are operating in this country have a direct connection to the jobs that are available, and the wages people earn. Businesses, big and small, have a lot to keep in mind when they are developing deals. A big business deal could be beneficial for the parties at the top, but could leave those in the middle, or lower, without a job. What’s the balance between capitalism and what’s morally right for workers?

Knowing this, everyone can better understand how this gap between the rich and the poor has reached its current state.