CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- n a recent commentary in the Sunday Gazette-Mail, Faye Taxman and Danielle S. Rudes, professors at George Mason University and Directors of the Center for Advancing Correctional Excellence, wrote the following:
"For more than 30 years the mechanism for crime fighting in the United States has focused on building and expanding the capacity of our prisons -- a phenomenon visible at federal, state and local government levels (with more cells and larger budgets)."
This view held by Professors Taxman and Rudes is shared by many experts in their field. However, it is only a partial explanation for the large increase in America's prison population over the last 30 years.
The explosive growth of America's Prison Industrial Complex is primarily attributable to America using prisons as a means of managing and controlling the surplus labor of undereducated and unskilled offenders, many who have a substance abuse or mental health issue. The growth of America's Prison Industrial Complex has also provided much needed employment opportunities for individuals who would have otherwise been unemployed due to the decline in manufacturing jobs. This decline in manufacturing jobs has resulted from advancements in manufacturing technology and the outsourcing of manufacturing jobs overseas.
The decline in the size of the U.S. military has also contributed to the surplus of under-skilled undereducated laborers in America.
Professors Taxman and Rudes, and many others, suggest that America's judges should be considering alternatives to incarceration for non-violent offenders. Many prison reform advocates agree with this position. The challenge to the implementation of this position is the complex competing economic conflict of interest created by the Prison Industrial Complex.
West Virginia's growing prison population is an example of this conflict of interest.