The relationship between Mass Imprisonment and Late Capitalism

The relationship between Mass Imprisonment and Late Capitalism


During ancient times, the African Americans worked as slaves in the American plantations where agriculture was their core point of focus. Slavery and the late capitalism link where capitalism is a unique way of remote slavery which is a substitute of forced labour in the modern world. Slave plantations increased their services and grew from being family institutions to an industry where they required a mass of workers. Therefore, mass imprisonment and late capitalism trace their roots from historical structures and rules. This paper presents a connection of how historically abandoned sequences of mass imprisonment have maintained from history and manifested into a new form of making money.

Recent studies and research conducted by different scholars has significantly intensified the instances and effects of mass imprisonment and late capitalism especially in the western countries. Mass imprisonment and late capitalism primarily act as utilities for the control of social lives and the creation of quiescence (Deckard, 2016). These countries apply these themes to control the factors affecting their economies and maintain a growing wealth inequality. A country like the United States of America is amongst the western countries experiencing mass imprisonment and late capitalism as it is from history. This country has experienced a class struggle during its development.

Throughout the history of America, there have been lines of battle drawn to differentiate and discriminate people of different races and genders. Discrimination and racism always happens against the will of the people as they try to put them in different sides (Balestracci, Fritz, Talley, 2017). Mass imprisonment and late capitalism remain to be profit-centred motives activated by the growth of the for-profit organizations and forced labour in prisons. America amounts for a fifth of the world’s population behind the bars with more than 2.3 million people imprisoned.

Mass Imprisonment/ Mass incarceration and Late Capitalism

Mass imprisonment is the main challenge facing many countries in the twenty-first century affecting the civil rights of our time. Research shows that an estimated one percent of the American adults are under incarceration while a two percent of the adults remain under the various schools of correction. On the other hand, an estimated nine percent of the adult Americans in their working ages have undergone this mass imprisonment making them felons (Deckard, 2016). This trait has raised concerns in the world with high levels never experienced before showing up. Surprisingly, mass imprisonment primarily focuses on the African American people living in the United States of America. More than four percent of the African American men are under the mass imprisonment program in the states.

As it is noted by Alexander (2012), the number of African American men under the mass imprisonment program in the United States of America has significantly increased as compared to the enslaving done in the late 1850. Different emphases have termed mass imprisonment of the African Americans as a way of social control and the extended trait of racism as was the history of the white states (Deckard, 2016). Many scholars have tried to fight incarceration as many countries use this systematic criminalization to render certain groups useless and powerless and put them under the bars. These mass prisons developed as a result of facilitating the control of wealth distribution and restrict rebellion at the same time. The current scenarios of incarceration negatively affects the labour market globally.

Some states have taken mass imprisonment as a way of controlling wealth amongst its citizens whereby they send the poor to the prisons. These governments in advance pump capital into these prisons trying to put the system in order. Prison funding exceeds the expenditures issued to the education system. The governments spend more of its funds sending mentally ill people behind the bars instead of issuing treatment plans to the affected minority (Deckard, 2016). This has demonstrated some kind of business happening in the mass imprisonment of people in different states. Some of these governments argue that mass imprisonment is a way of reducing the social competition between the poor and rich in the society by eliminating the unemployed. As mass imprisonment became the centre of control for many countries, the construction of prisons gradually increased. These prisons became the central housing for the poor minority (Wacquant 2010). Therefore, mass imprisonment, in other words, is the best-preferred way of spending in the late capitalism.

Supporting the carceral programmes is the mass movement of the poor people of colour, mostly young men seeking jobs away from their economically stagnant home cities. The blacks or the people of colour as many call them, are the most people affected by the global economic challenges in spite of their area of living. The government takes the advantage of these poor populations to send them to the prisons where they can effectively control them and make the country stable. This trait of racial discrimination has been in the history of the United States of America where the whites would take advantage of the efforts of the blacks for their benefits (Gilmore, 2006). In spite of the gradual growth of prisons, there has been minimal to no growth of the economy in the rural areas as the unemployed whites provided labour which the imprisoned blacks would provide.

The mass imprisonment of the poor people of colour, who have little education in the states, has significantly increased over the years. A recent study showed that in every three black men, one of them suffers a lifetime imprisonment. Even after a general representation of the poor black people in the court of justice, their mass imprisonment has just increased where 68% of black men without education face imprisonment for a year. The black men face more challenges than their counterpart whites where their possibility to be in a prison is very possible. In the U.S., these people of colour earn and spend the least.

Racism and poverty in the United States of America are very high and their policies, which mainly target the poor population, go hand in hand with the policies which affect the African Americans. Most of these imprisoned people are undereducated, poor, and widows and did not have jobs in their times of imprisonment. This implies that the imprisoned Americans would earn little compared to their white counterparts. The rate of mass imprisonment in the United States of America significantly increased from the year 1976 to the recent world ever recorded rates to date. Mass imprisonment in the western countries serves some purposes. First, mass imprisonment helps the strong people in the society take an advantage of the poor by rendering them powerless. These strong groups also use incarceration as a way of controlling the economy.

The rich whites use their powers to tune the system as per their interests so that they may maintain power and retain their wealth. The prison system in the U.S. of mass imprisonment is a clear demonstration of racism, sexism, and classism. The government changes the law in a form that they will get favours from the laws to make sure they keep their system running. Therefore, the prisons act as a store of production where the imprisoned people work without pay for the rich. The way mass imprisonment provides opportunities for the economic control remains to be an important question for many scholars overlooking the matter. For example, taking a country like the United States of America, the benefits associated with mass incarceration have gradually increased over time. The once small point of focus has grown to a core point of attraction of the economy.

The department of justice in the U.S. prefers the use of public prisons from the private prisons which account for a seven percent of the prisons in the United States of America. Private prisons investments share a small number in the total finances used in mass imprisonment. There is a relationship between mass imprisonment and capitalism. In the cases of low economic performance, crimes tend to increase from the poor population. This condition forces the government to put measures like increasing the rate of incarceration and reduce the number of unemployed people in the streets.

Prison/Social Reproduction

The current state in the prisons department is an administrative and an apparatus for the rich class to rule. Therefore, according to this statement we can derive that the prison system in many countries embedded with capitalism is a dual line of control. In a county like the United States of America, the prison system remains under control from traits borrowed from history. The bourgeois in America use their power to radicalize and racialize people trying to control and maintain social order within a very busy state dominating in production. As such, mass imprisonment as is the prison statement in the United States of America, plays a very significant role in the American capitalism. Capitalism tries to dislocate people keeping them in one place to offer cheap labour.

In the U.S., this prison system has encouraged racism in whether you are employed or unemployed. The women have the role to reproduction which would in return provide labour thereof to benefit the capitalist. This racism and individualism of the people of colour make the blacks vulnerable to capitalism. This situation empowers the capitalist to not only pay the workers lower wages but also to afford cheap labour in the process. Therefore, the prison system becomes a warehouse for these radicalized people who do not hold any productive powers in the society. The housing project for the prison is just a secondary use of the prisons where social control becomes its primary point of operation. People should note that these prisons are just like the public institutions lined with the society. Capitalists and the government decide on the procedure of using the power of the powerless in the society. In such a way, mass imprisonment becomes an act of terror to the housed individuals.

Historical Lead-Up

The current global prison system analyzation is critical only when analysed from the same point. A good example is the prison system in California where the workers live in havoc disgraced by how the system cuts on their rights. The prison population in this state gradually increased in a period of eighteen years from the year 1982. The number of prisons increased by almost 500% although there were decreased rates of crime. Most of the prisoners were blacks, women, and the illegal immigrants. Combined for this period, the state of California had more than 160,000 prisoners. Conversantly, most of these prisoners were in a poor state economically and the state lawyers had to represent them for their freeing. Generally, most of these prisoners came from the current cities of California. This case on California represents the prison system which targeted the blacks, the poor, women, and illegal immigrants. These are still the current policies under use for racism and the control of the social structure against the marginalized groups.

After America gained control of California after the Mexican War, this state changed gradually both demographically and in the way of governance. The whites had the power to control this new state according to their interests. Through legislation methods, the whites could manipulate the economy creating different levels of classes ensuring a continuation of racism. The primary aim of this governance was to make sure they remain in power over the people of colour and other immigrants. Therefore, the lower class of people other than the whites were subjected to the rule of the rich. Labour and racism lined after the new ruling paving a way for “effective slavery.” The new ruling system continued the racism system in California. This new system heavily affected the labour part making it cheap amongst the whites. A new class developed in the wake of industrialization making the whites more preferred by the system.

After the Second World War, the whites utilised this chance and armed California with the modern tools of war investing millions of dollars in the military sector. In return, many people of colour migrated from their homes chasing money into California making it a mixed racial city. However, the whites who owned houses in California could not sell them under any condition as per the law (Gilmore 2007). This was a way of promoting the whites dominancy in the region even after previous oppositions. The state decided to boost the defence of California in the fall of the World War II. They did so by developing aviation schools which were higher education centres financed by the state. From 1950 to 1970, the population of California gradually increased doubling it to nearly twenty million people following the new inventions (Gilmore, 2007). At this time, the whites also dominated the region still posing an economic challenge to the African Americans.

After the end of the war, the people of colour who had sought jobs in the manufacturing industry lost their jobs dramatically making them seek the low paying jobs. This state of employment made more blacks to dominate states like Los Angeles where they had settled after immigration. At the recession between 1969 and 1970, California went into a crisis after a military industry blow (Gilmore, 2007). Many people, specifically the blacks lost their jobs forcing the whites to introduce laws to eliminate the unemployed, which was racism. The state of California experienced highs of unemployment at the time as more blacks also immigrated into the region. Although the blacks dominated in numbers over the whites, the whites made sure that they dominated over the blacks while they proposed higher payments over their rivals.



With time, California grew in the manufacturing sector as the whites became more powerful than the blacks. The high numbers of the unemployed and uneducated number of the people of colour created an economic crisis from capitalism. More people were unemployed and required money at the same time. In response to the growing populations, the state instead of providing jobs to the jobless ignited the concept of prisons. Through the prison system, the states were able to control the surplus population solving the workplace issues by imprisoning the people of colour (Gilmore 2007).

The investment of capital in the prison system paved a way for the whites to make money by imprisoning the blacks in the underdeveloped areas. Therefore, the whites provided laws supporting these ideas which preserved the prisoners in return. This system and cycle industry has grown significantly producing the current situation, making many people of colour remain behind the bars for committing crimes coequal to their counterparts. The whites are hardly sentenced into jail even after committing similar crimes. California is a good example showing the origin of the current prison system and the different mechanisms applied therein. The world can use this information using this state as a clear example of mass incarceration.

Implementation and Living Conditions

The expansion of the prison system in California created a way for imprisoning the free people. Therefore, the police gained advantage of the system which they believed was an efficient way of controlling the population. The mass imprisonment of the blacks gradually increased the amount of people living in the fast-growing prison department in California. The increased rate of mass imprisonment not only provided more powers to the police, but also was a better way of social control. Racism affected all sides of the economy extending its arms to the educational institutions where they could control who would get the future job. Just like any other process of social reproduction, the prisons and educational institutions served the same purpose of social control. The educational institutions and the prisons shared a common characteristic especially for the African Americans.

Since the historical times, educational institutions across the United States including California act as centres of social control copying exactly the prisons atmosphere and the experiences of mass imprisonment. In contrast, the students just like prisoners suffer the same rates of investigation like being subjected to arms detectors and sniffing dogs. Also, minor infringements from the students may attract an imprisonment or total expulsion instead of dealing with these minor cases in the administration. Through harsh disciplines and poor environments of studying, the blacks are exposed to forced labour (Dancy, 2014). Currently, this condition appears as a means of mass imprisonment. Both the educational institutions and the centres of incarceration apply the rule of standardized evaluation where they choose the position of imprisoned workers (Gillmore, 2007). This trend benefits the capitalists by gaining more from the cheap labour.

Prison privatization in the United States started way back in the historical times with the prison expansion being a recent progress in this sector. During the 18th century, the federal government paid private prisons who held criminals awaiting trial. The private prison providers would continue offering their services after receiving compensation. However, these rates of compensation were set high for the government. These private prisons operated under set policies from the department of criminal justice. However, these private prisons transformed with the introduction of public prisons. Private prisons advocated to offer more savings to the government according to some advocates. Several reports also support this claim stating that these prisons save the operational costs when they hire non-union staff members. These workers get low wages while benefiting little from their work. These advocates also suggested that the government would save more capital by ordering the private prisons to offer correctional services.

The labour from the prisoners positively influences mass production of goods and service for the big companies in America. However, capitalism and the society cannot lack contradictions whatsoever. These contradictions help us understand how different states carry out their routines under the late capitalism. Capitalism controls the social life by making sure that there exists a differential class between the whites and the people of colour. Capitalism in a way privatizes property ownership whereby, politicians, activists, and business pioneers determine the destiny of the whole system. Many of these programs get fund from private donations.


Collectively, from the case of California it is evident that the development of the prisons system played a very significant role in shaping the community. However, these prisons are the pivots of capitalism which is a system of racism. This system provides things in excess- land, capital, and labour. This way, the federal government and the governing bodies can effectively control the economy while conditioning their social reproduction at the same time. The echoes of capitalism still resonate throughout the prison system in the United States (Deckard, 2017). With the rate of mass imprisonment still on the rise in the U.S., the private prisons still hold more culprits awaiting trial in the criminal justice. Capitalism creates a huge chance for the powerful majority to bully the less fortunate. It is my hope that the future will change for this prison system and eradicate racism and mass imprisonment. This business, as per the modern age, is illegal and a rejuvenated mode of modern slavery. Every individual, despite of their social class, skin colour, or social position is entitled to equal treatment under the law.