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Book Review: The Perpetual Prisoner Machine: How America Profits From Crime

by Joel Dyer, Westview Press, 2000 (318 pages)

Reviewed by Rick Card

An estimated 69 million people, or 44 percent of all households now own stock or invest in one of thousands of mutual funds. According to Joel Dyer, they are all "deriving at least a small portion of their profits from crime."

In his latest book, The Perpetual Prisoner Machine, Dyer demonstrates how prison profiteering threatens the fabric of our democratic ideals, setting us up for a prison expansion of unimaginable proportion.

Analyzing our current criminal justice policy, Dyer points out how prisoncrats have twisted the issues into an argument they cannot lose. By using fallacious reports of rising crime to call for more prisons is one thing, but to say that prisons are working when the numbers fallin effect calling for more prisons to further reduce crimeis an example of having your cake and eating it too.

Dyer calls it flipping a coin with a prison on both sides. The losers are two million souls caged like animals and taxpayers who foot the expanding bill; the winners are prison contractors, suppliers, investors, service providers, and law enforcement agencies who reap larger budgets and higher profits.

The Perpetual Prisoner Machine rips apart the prison industrial complex and shows us the inner workings of a malignant world driven by the unceasing quest for profits. From high profile Wall Street investment banks to small time chemical weapons suppliers, everyone is jockeying for a position in the highprofit game of mass incarceration.

The myth of cost savings associated with private prisons is busted to rubble by Dyer's unflinching analysis. He shows how, contrary to popular belief, private prisons have no proof of saving taxpayer money, yet continue to grow at alarming rates. What's more, he raises the hard questions about what it means to grant private corporations with the power to punish and even kill American citizens _ a right that should be exclusive to the state.

Dyer pulls the covers back and shows us not only what is going on, but why it is happening and what we can expect if things aren't changed. He has a fresh voice; a voice of real concern. He puts both his head and his heart into his words, calling even the most conservativeminded individuals to ponder the danger of our present course.

This is a book to read and understand. Two million citizens locked away is one thing to grapple with, but profiting from their demise is an monstrous exercise that must be stopped. Joel Dyer has just taken our first step.

This book is available in paperback from PLN for $19. See the order form on page 34.

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