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Behind Bars: A Guide to Understanding the Prison Industrial Complex: A Brief Introduction

This guide is intended as an introduction to the terms and concepts associated with the Prison Industrial Complex in America.


"Behind Bars: A Guide to Understanding the Prison Industrial Complex" is a collection of introductory resources intended to help individuals gain a better understanding of the important concepts associated with the Prison Industrial Complex, such as the privatization of prisons, mass incarceration, prison labor, and the 13th Amendment connection as well as how the prison system operates in America. This guide helps users learn about the issue through a combination of videos, podcasts, articles, books, and websites.

This guide is not intended to be an all-encompassing resource for a complete understanding of the Prison Industrial Complex. This topic is very complex and there are more concepts and ideas associated with the Prison Industrial Complex than this guide could ever hope to cover. Therefore, this guide is intended primarily for an audience of young adults, particularly high schoolers, who are unaware of the intricacies of the Prison Industrial Complex and are looking for easy to comprehend resources that will introduce them to the main concepts and ideas associated with this topic. The ultimate goal of this guide is to help students view the prison system from a new perspective and think critically about the inherent flaws that exist within the American prison system. Students who become interested in this topic are strongly encouraged to continue their own research into the issue and discover the ways in which they can get involved in dismantling the Prison Industrial Complex. 

“You can judge a society by how well it treats its prisoners.” ~ Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Jailed In America│WHY SLAVERY?

Jailed In America, a short film by Academy Award-winning director Roger Ross Williams, provides an overview on the main contributing factors that make up the Prison Industrial Complex. This video will provide students with a brief introduction to the concepts of mass incarceration, the 13th Amendment connection to prisons, prison labor, and the privatization of prisons. These four key elements function to uphold the prison system in America and have resulted in a rise from 330,000 to 2.3 million inmates in the past 30 years.

Prison Industrial Complex For Beginners by James Braxton Peterson

Prison: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

In this video, comedian and political commentator John Oliver provides students with an easy to understand and engaging video on the conditions within American prisons and what factors have led to the growth of the Prison Industrial Complex in America. This video serves as a great introduction to viewers who don't have much prior exposure to the issue.

Articles Introducing the Prison Industrial Complex