What is the Prison Industrial Complex? We have found that the organization Critical Resistance gives the best definition of what the PIC means: The Prison Industrial Complex (PIC) is a term used to describe the overlapping interests of government and industry that use surveillance, policing, and imprisonment as solutions to economic, social, and political problems.
So, the PIC is not just prisons themselves, but rather a massive, mutually reinforcing web of relationships between all the different parts - for example between the prisons, the probation service, the police, the courts, and all of the corporations that profit off of exploiting the suffering of incarcerated people - from their food, their medical care, communication to their loved ones, the list goes on.
In the United States we have the highest incarceration rate in the world. Our incarceration rates started rapidly increasing due to the War on Drugs and “tough on crime” sentencing laws, and they've been skyrocketing ever since, despite the fact that our crime rates have largely remained the same. Putting all of these people in prison has not deterred crime or kept us safer.
It has however, destroyed families and communities, pulled people out of school and jobs, severely limiting what they can do in the future, drained local, state and federal budgets resulting in states slashing education funding while increasing prison spending. It has locked people into a relentless cycle of poverty, subjecting them to further trauma and abuse, and the complex issues which caused them to become incarcerated in the first place are never addressed, let alone solved. Mass incarceration is not the answer. We believe that education is essential in working towards a future where we no longer criminalize people, nor look to a cage to solve our problems.