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Perpetual Prisoner Machine: How America Profits From Crime

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In The Perpetual Prisoner Machine, author Joel Dyer takes a critical look at the United States’ criminal justice system as we enter the new millennium. America has more than tripled its prison population since 1980 even though crime rates have been either flat or declining. The U.S. now incarcerates nearly two million people in its prisons and jails on any given day and ov In The Perpetual Prisoner Machine, author Joel Dyer takes a critical look at the United States’ criminal justice system as we enter the new millennium. America has more than tripled its prison population since 1980 even though crime rates have been either flat or declining. The U.S. now incarcerates nearly two million people in its prisons and jails on any given day and over five million of its citizens are currently under some form of justice department supervision. These facts raise an obvious question: If crime rates aren’t going up, why is the prison population? The Perpetual Prisoner Machine provides the answer to this question and, shockingly, it has little to do with crime or justice. The answer is “profit.”In the 1990s, through their mutual and pension funds, millions of American investors are now unwittingly profiting from crime. As a result of America’s controversial push towards the privatization of its justice system, a growing number of well-known and politically influential U.S. Corporations—and subsequently their shareholders—are now cashing in on a prison trade whose profit potential is tied directly to the growth of the prison population. A disturbing realization, when you consider the influence that these same multi-national companies now have over our government’s policy-making process by way of their lobbyists and their ability to fill campaign coffers.The Perpetual Prisoner Machine explains how the new prison-industrial complex has capitalized upon the public’s fear of crime—which has its origins in violent media content—to help bring about the “hard on crime” policies that have led to our prison-filling, and therefore profitable, “war on crime.” In addition to a quest for profits, Dyer describes an astounding chain of events including media consolidation and globalization, advances in communication technology, and the increasing political dependence upon public opinion polls and campaign funding that have led to the creation of what the author calls “the perpetual prisoner machine,” a mechanism designed to suck the funds from social programs that diminish the crime-enhancing power of poverty and spit them into the bank accounts of those who own stock in the prison-industrial complex.Dyer concludes that powerful, market-driven forces have manipulated America into fighting a very real war against an imaginary foe. “Unfortunately,” says Dyer, “real wars have real casualties. And in this case, the victims are America’s poor, particularly those segments of our black and Hispanic population who live in poverty and who now comprise the vast majority of the new human commodity.”


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In The Perpetual Prisoner Machine, author Joel Dyer takes a critical look at the United States’ criminal justice system as we enter the new millennium. America has more than tripled its prison population since 1980 even though crime rates have been either flat or declining. The U.S. now incarcerates nearly two million people in its prisons and jails on any given day and ov In The Perpetual Prisoner Machine, author Joel Dyer takes a critical look at the United States’ criminal justice system as we enter the new millennium. America has more than tripled its prison population since 1980 even though crime rates have been either flat or declining. The U.S. now incarcerates nearly two million people in its prisons and jails on any given day and over five million of its citizens are currently under some form of justice department supervision. These facts raise an obvious question: If crime rates aren’t going up, why is the prison population? The Perpetual Prisoner Machine provides the answer to this question and, shockingly, it has little to do with crime or justice. The answer is “profit.”In the 1990s, through their mutual and pension funds, millions of American investors are now unwittingly profiting from crime. As a result of America’s controversial push towards the privatization of its justice system, a growing number of well-known and politically influential U.S. Corporations—and subsequently their shareholders—are now cashing in on a prison trade whose profit potential is tied directly to the growth of the prison population. A disturbing realization, when you consider the influence that these same multi-national companies now have over our government’s policy-making process by way of their lobbyists and their ability to fill campaign coffers.The Perpetual Prisoner Machine explains how the new prison-industrial complex has capitalized upon the public’s fear of crime—which has its origins in violent media content—to help bring about the “hard on crime” policies that have led to our prison-filling, and therefore profitable, “war on crime.” In addition to a quest for profits, Dyer describes an astounding chain of events including media consolidation and globalization, advances in communication technology, and the increasing political dependence upon public opinion polls and campaign funding that have led to the creation of what the author calls “the perpetual prisoner machine,” a mechanism designed to suck the funds from social programs that diminish the crime-enhancing power of poverty and spit them into the bank accounts of those who own stock in the prison-industrial complex.Dyer concludes that powerful, market-driven forces have manipulated America into fighting a very real war against an imaginary foe. “Unfortunately,” says Dyer, “real wars have real casualties. And in this case, the victims are America’s poor, particularly those segments of our black and Hispanic population who live in poverty and who now comprise the vast majority of the new human commodity.”

30 review for Perpetual Prisoner Machine: How America Profits From Crime

  1. 4 out of 5

    Ellen

    So this was written almost 20 years ago. Many of the problems addressed within have only gotten worse in the time since, and it's interesting to see how little has changed. This wasn't always the most engagingly-written book; it could get repetitive at times and some of the pop culture references were extremely awkward. (I don't think it was the datedness as much as the unusual phrasing--who refers to Bruce Willis as just plain "Willis?" Was this a thing in 1999?--and the way they were thrown in So this was written almost 20 years ago. Many of the problems addressed within have only gotten worse in the time since, and it's interesting to see how little has changed. This wasn't always the most engagingly-written book; it could get repetitive at times and some of the pop culture references were extremely awkward. (I don't think it was the datedness as much as the unusual phrasing--who refers to Bruce Willis as just plain "Willis?" Was this a thing in 1999?--and the way they were thrown in kind of randomly. Also, as I note in my progress notes, they were occasionally a bit sexist.) The best parts of this were when Dyer would examine the effects that the titular "machine" had on ordinary people--prisoners and their families. More of that and fewer Buttafuoco/Bill Clinton blowjob/90s action movie asides would have been useful.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Vince

    A growing concern over the state of our criminal justice system, fueled by news headlines, in-depth investigative reporting on privatized prisons by journalists like Shane Bauer, and even popular entertainment like the new season of OITNB, led me to delve deeper into this topic. Dyer's book, though a bit dated (having been published in 2000), still serves as an excellent source on the genesis and explosive growth of the prison industrial complex that has led to the mass incarceration of primaril A growing concern over the state of our criminal justice system, fueled by news headlines, in-depth investigative reporting on privatized prisons by journalists like Shane Bauer, and even popular entertainment like the new season of OITNB, led me to delve deeper into this topic. Dyer's book, though a bit dated (having been published in 2000), still serves as an excellent source on the genesis and explosive growth of the prison industrial complex that has led to the mass incarceration of primarily poor, non-white, low-level offenders. Dyer details the elements that have brick-by-brick perverted American justice: corporate ownership and consolidation of media that turned once reliable news organizations into purveyors of sensationalized crime stories and pop culture soundbites, the "crime gap" created by a media fed perception of violent crime versus the reality of crime, the drumbeat of fear by politicians to turn the crime gap into advantage by continually pushing tough on crime legislation like three strikes and mandatory sentencing which appeases their corporate donors, the prison industry that feeds the campaign coffers of the politicians and creates a veritable money machine for the investor class based on continual prison growth and the funneling of ever more people into the system for longer periods of time. The reality of what's happening is much worse than I imagined. Morally repugnant is the term that best suits. I strongly encourage everyone to pick up this book or any others covering this topic and read every word then urge your friends to do the same.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Hannah Spadafora

    A bit dated, but still wonderful investigation into the prison system.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Justin Mills

    The statistics are all foe the 90s, given the book was written in 2000. But the main premise still holds, and this is a must read for folks concerned about justice in America.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Brad Laken

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy

  7. 5 out of 5

    Londress

  8. 5 out of 5

    Antonio Murphy

  9. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

  10. 4 out of 5

    Lucas

  11. 4 out of 5

    Yancy

  12. 5 out of 5

    Conal Cochran

  13. 5 out of 5

    Corey Alan

  14. 5 out of 5

    Rachael Johnson

  15. 5 out of 5

    Russia

  16. 5 out of 5

    goldread ~

  17. 4 out of 5

    Brian P

  18. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

  19. 5 out of 5

    Chanel

  20. 4 out of 5

    Michael E. Walker

  21. 5 out of 5

    Summer

  22. 5 out of 5

    Matt Bess

  23. 5 out of 5

    Hope

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sabrina

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jamiles Lartey

  26. 4 out of 5

    Dennis Blewitt

  27. 4 out of 5

    Yohanan EliYah

  28. 4 out of 5

    Misty

  29. 4 out of 5

    Mark Nicholson

  30. 4 out of 5

    Ida

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