Bureaucratic Capitalism, Mass Incarceration and Race and Ethnicity in America

  • Karen Manges Douglas
  • Gideon Sjoberg
  • Rogelio Sáenz
  • David G. Embrick
Part of the Handbooks of Sociology and Social Research book series (HSSR)


Much scholarly attention has focused on the negative aspects of mass incarceration and rightly so. However, we know of no one that has paid attention to the role of large-scale organizations (or the millions of people they employ) that profit from or derive their livelihood off of mass incarceration and ancillary industries. We argue that the US system of mass incarceration is foundational to the reconfigured post-industrial economy. Millions of Americans, indeed entire communities, are dependent upon the millions of convicts and ex-convicts for their very sustenance. Every year, universities across the US graduate more than 60,000 students with majors in Homeland Security and Law Enforcement. These “controllogy” disciplines are perfecting the science of keeping people under control. Furthermore, race and racism undergird this system. Residents of highly policed “million dollar block” neighborhoods characterized by failing schools, low rates of home ownership, and limited access to credit, fuel the now multi-generational school-to-prison pipeline. Consequently, society has grown dependent upon black and brown incarcerated bodies to maintain a significant part of the US economy. We conclude the chapter by advancing a counter-system to this system of mass incarceration that allows us to reverse course.


Prison-industrial complex Institutions Incarceration Racial bias Racist institutions Racially biased knowledge 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Karen Manges Douglas
    • 1
  • Gideon Sjoberg
    • 2
  • Rogelio Sáenz
    • 3
  • David G. Embrick
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of SociologySam Houston State UniversityHuntsville TexasUSA
  2. 2.Department of SociologyUniversity of Texas at AustinAustinUSA
  3. 3.Dean of the College of Public PolicyUniversity of Texas at San AntonioSan AntonioUSA
  4. 4.Department of Sociology and African StudiesUniversity of ConnecticutStorrsUSA

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