Prison Industrial Complex

Prison Industrial Complex


Sociologists define deviance as any action or behavior that differs from the norms of any culture or social grouping. Sociologists and other professional schools of thought study how these norms are created, how they evolve and how they are enforced. Norms are structured behavioral patterns and standards or specific ways in which people are required to act in their specific society or cultures. The norms are not specifically based on moral, religious or ethical grounds and are just plain and irrational. The norms are rules that govern the conduct of people and are ever changing. They change as society changes, are biased and are highly one-sided and selfish. The norms vary from one social class to the other and from generation to generation. The paper shall highlight the problems faced by the African American community, how the problems affect their livelihoods inside the prisons and those of the families they have left at home. It is important to bring to attention the plight of the black community in order to begin to put a stop to this tyranny by the white community.


            Deviance can then be described as the failure to conform to these norms. Since the norms are different from one society to the other and from one culture to the other, one can commit a deviant act in a society or culture that considers it as a cultural or social norm and vice versa. Deviance can be said to be time- and place-relative since an act that might be considered deviant in one social context may be not be necessarily deviant in another. Black society stereotyping has been a prevalent problem in the United States of America since the black community has often been portrayed in society as criminals. From the article African American Men and the Prison Industrial Complex, deviant behavior is characterized by breaking the law. The law acts as the ‘norms’ in our society. The repercussions of breaking the law are arrests and the issuance of a jail term (Smith & Hattery, 2010).

The black community has faced oppression, stigmatization and stereotyping from the white community in America, an act that is inhuman and that needs to end. Social power can be used as a tool to punish deviance since a group with influence on legislators can use their power to criminalize the actions of another group. From the article, this is observed where the white community makes laws that subject the non-whites to be arrested for petty offences so that they can be incarcerated and offer cheap labor in their factories.

Labeling is a process of reaction by the social audience where people in society who are judged are labeled as people with deviant behavior. The social audiences invent, select and manipulate the social beliefs that define conduct negatively and categorize people into these groups. Labeling therefore defines deviance as being caused by labeling the deviant person as being inferior morally. Thus, the deviant person internalizes the label and finally the deviant person acts according to the label. In time, the labeled person’s traits conform to the deviations of the specific group. The social audience in this case play god since they create the character and they have the power to prevent the creation of the character or deviant from ever taking place. From the article, in the prison system, theft convicts are victims of labeling and from there they view themselves as incapable of change. The black society also suffers greatly from labeling since the society views the blacks as criminals. An example from the article is that of a white woman who called the police on a black man who was a professor when he was trying to enter his home (Smith & Hattery, 2010).

Differential association argues that criminal activity is learnt just like any other activity or behavior that characterizes an individual’s nature and it is not unique. Criminals learn deviant and criminal behaviors out of choice and the behaviors are not necessarily part of their individual nature. This comes about when the individual interacts with certain groups where some common signs, symbols and ideas are communicated. When the communications about deviance are more favorable to the individual than unfavorable, the individual favors deviance and conforms to the behaviors associated with it. From the article, this behavior is mostly common among the black community who have had most of their relatives jailed to a point where that is the only life they know. The young look up to become just like their older counterparts since in their society it has become a norm to go to jail.

A strain is the situation or state where correspondence between social goals and the legitimate means to achieve them is not present. The strain, stress or frustration that arises when this correspondence is absent causes individuals to exhibit deviant behaviors and responses. The article explains this by showing how black community experiences this strain since their productivity has been limited in capacity by their constant incarcerations and their ability to raise any capital to start up after their jail terms is next to nil. This is because they are enrolled to poor job schemes in the jails and any rehabilitation skills learnt like barbering are not nurtured when on the outside (Smith & Hattery, 2010). This is because all avenues have been closed for all black convicted felons using their identification. Home ownership plans have restricted convicts and anyone who has ever been arrested.


The plight of the black community, as seen in the paper, has been addressed and it shall come to the attention of the global community. The passing of the information to the community and making it known out there is crucial in the fight against this tyranny. Crime is the performance of an action by an individual or a group of individuals that goes against the law of the country/state the person is in as at the time of the performance of the action. Punishments for crimes usually differ from state to state or country to country but most of them include the serving of a jail term. This is where an individual’s freedom is restricted for a specific amount of time that shall be relative of the crime/s he/she has committed and what the law of where he/she is says about it. The article talks about crime as being controlled by the white community. They control what is right or wrong to favor them and put the disadvantaged races as bait for their ‘law systems’ to come and capture (Smith & Hattery, 2010). The article explains that being non-white is the crime that every non-white person commits since these individuals are all disadvantaged. The discussion shall benefit political scholars and human rights scholars in providing an in depth analysis of the subject.







Smith, E., & Hattery, A. J. (2010). African American Men and the Prison Industrial Complex. Western Journal of Black Studies, 34(4), 387-398

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