The paper illustrates the rise of the American prison-industrial complex in the latter part of the 20th century and discusses its effect on convicts, who are disproportionately black men. The author provides policy recommendations concerning political discourse on crime, drug sentencing laws, the private corrections industry, and juvenile justice and rehabilitation programs.
- Policies enacted from 1970 through 2000 have contributed to increased incarceration and spending on prisons, while being ineffective at reducing crime.
- Private prison companies influence the policy making process. They tend to promote "get tough" programs based on punishment rather than the root causes of crime.
- The challenge of staying out of jail is compounded for former inmates who are racial minorities.
- Researchers have found a number of promising rehabilitation schemes to help prisoners effectively reenter society. States have experimented with these with some success.