Private prisons, the criminal justice-industrial complex and bodies destined for profitable punishment

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminology

Publication Title

Routledge handbook of critical criminology: Second edition


Privatization refers to outsourcing government functions to private, usually for-profit business under a contract. The aggregate of businesses that profit from criminal justice expenditures is the criminal justice-industrial complex. Although criminologists do not often follow the money trail to understand criminal justice policy, firms that make money from the current system have revenue streams they want to protect - and enhance. This dynamic is a problem when businesses make a profit from policy and practices that are marked by many injustices, especially by targeting the poor and minorities. Indeed, businesses lobby and make political donations to influence public policy in ways that privilege their profitability over the public interest and requirements of justice. Such distortions can be substantial when expenditures for criminal justice and security are hundreds of billions of dollars a year.

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