One of the most troubling aspects of modern capitalism is the relentless privatization of all aspects of society. Americans now accept that healthcare has nothing to do with public good - it's a business much like real estate where millions get priced out of the game and are left with crippling bills for basic treatments. If that wasn't bad enough, the prison system is slowly but surely transforming into another giant profit making business where locking people up has become a lucrative source of income for big corporations.
Facing huge budget deficits, California recently signed a $30 million-plus contract with Florida based private prison contractor Geo Group to lease space for 1,400 inmates in overcrowded state lockups. The trend is continuing around the country with over a 1600% increase in the private prison population since 1990. The US locks up its citizens at rates unheard of in other industrialized nations. In 2011 2,266,800 adults were incarcerated in U.S. federal and state prisons, for crimes the ACLU states are "spurred by criminal laws that put more people in prison for longer sentences". Prison populations are often used as sources of labor for corporate profit - giant outsourcing centers that undercut regular American workers and make locking people up a very profitable industry. Once profit was introduced to a system, the pressure to grow and continue the trend increases leading to policies that perpetuate the ever expanding prison population, leading to what social scientists call 'the prison industrial complex'.
It's hard to deny the relationship between profit and the rising prison population given crime rates have fallen dramatically in America over the past 40 years. If industry is demanding more prisoners and society keeps finding ways to generate them, slavery analogies become less than conspiratorial.
Moral aspects aside, those in favor of the privatization of the prison system argue that it saves taxpayers money and are far more efficient than the state and federal prisons. The truth is, they aren't, as this scary chart shows:
(Image courtesy of Top Criminal Justice Degrees)