Growing Food as a Subversive Act

by douglas reeser on October 30, 2011
Here at Recycled Minds, we love food. We grow it, we share it, we prepare it, we research it and we love to eat it! Above, check out this TedX talk by Roger Doiron, from Kitchen Gardeners International, who frames gardening as a truly subversive act because "It has the potential to radically alter the balance of the entire world." Doiron goes on to explain:
When we encourage people to grow some of their own food, we're ecouraging them to take power into their hands, power over their diet, power over their health, and some power over their pocketbooks. So I think that's quite subversive because we're necessarily talking about taking that power away from someone else - from other actors in society that currently have power over food and health. You can think about who those actors might be.
This is a compelling video that will have you thinking seriously about growing some food. As the Occupy Movement continues to grow and evolve, food will become an increasingly larger part of its considerations. Growing food in your yard or other small spaces is a way to bring change into your life and those of others, and it can be a great way to bring people around you together - to create and embolden your community. Doiron offers a number of interesting frameworks for why this is becoming more and more important.

Enjoy - and go plant some food!

Occupy: It's (Almost) All About the Money

~ Money Talks Poster ~
courtesy of
by douglas reeser on October 28, 2011
It has been a little more than a month since the first cries of the Occupy Movement were heard from New York, and since then occupiers have spread across the US and the world. The persistence and growth of Occupy and the recent (unfortunate) turn toward police crackdowns in a number of cities has firmly planted the movement within the attention of the national media. Through all of these developments, the centrality of the Occupy message has begun to emerge. In short, it's all about the money. It's a message that is spot on. 

Money is a central theme of Occupy. The entire 99% meme is a response to the unprecedented concentration of wealth in the hands of a very small percent of the people. Other points of contention include the call for corporate influence (read money) to be excluded from the political arena, and a critical reworking of the student loan bubble that has resulted in thousands of students overburdened with debt and wages that don't add up. 

Two articles caught my attention this week for the way that they highlight and support these concerns so central to the Occupy Movement. In his article in the Free Press, Joel S. Hirschhorn provides some concrete numbers about the global upperclass that support what Occupiers have been talking about: 
"Globally, millionaires and billionaires now control 38.5 percent of the world’s wealth, according to the latest Global Wealth Report from Credit Suisse. Never have so few owned so much. There are 29.7 million people in the world with household net worth of $1 million or more; they represent less than 1 percent of the world’s population, actually just .4 percent of 7 billion people.

Their wealth share rose from 35.6 percent in 2010, because even during the global economic recession their wealth increased by about $20 trillion. In fact, their wealth grew 29 percent — about twice as fast as the wealth in the world as a whole."
Yes, that's correct, those with the largest share of the wealth continued to make money during the global recession. As many (if not most) people around the world experienced a direct hit to their economic well-being, the rich became richer. While millions in the US were having their homes foreclosed, the rich became richer. The global economic system has been revealed as unjust - a system that steals from the poor to fatten the rich. 

And just who are these global rich? That is the subject of the second article I came across this week by the Globe and Mail that reports on research by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich. The research investigated the corporate links that account for the bulk of global economic activity. The researchers examined 43,060 transnational companies, and found that 147 companies account for 40% of global economic value. Further, financial institutions - the very ones mixed up in the global recession - make up the bulk of these core companies: 
"Among the top 50 corporations, 45 operate within the financial industry. Barclays PLC is the most powerful, according to the ETH study, followed by such well-known names as JPMorgan Chase & Co., UBS AG, and Merrill Lynch & Co., Inc. 
The intense interconnection and concentration of power weakens market competition as players form blocs, according to the study. There’s another drawback to those close links, particularly among the banks: when one runs into problems its woes spread quickly to the others."
After reading these short pieces, it's clear that the 99% rallying cry is on the money. In fact, maybe it should be "We are the 99.9%!" 

We have uploaded the research paper from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich to our Library for further reading. Read The Network of Global Corporate Control here >>>

Voices of Occupy: Morality and Occupy

The second piece in Recycled Minds' Voices of Occupy series is written by Cyrus Kleege, who has been participating in and following the critical narrative of Occupy Wall Street. Kleege's article is a response to George Lakoff's article, "Framing Occupy Wall Street," published last week on Truthout, in which Lakoff argues for a moral framework for the Occupy movement. Kleege is a professional book clerk, amateur writer and activist living in Brooklyn. You can read more of his writings at Occasional Vitriol and Rich Jerk Quote of the Week.

We would love to hear from more occupiers, so if you have your own Occupy experience that you would like to share, send us an email.

I have been increasingly interested and involved in the Occupy Wall Street movement that sprung up in New York about a month ago and in a short time began to spread to the far corners of the United States and the world. I haven't been able to properly “Occupy” Zucotti Park as I work full time, but I have made it to most of the larger actions: the march halfway across the Brooklyn bridge (followed by the paddy wagon ride to One Police Plaza), the huge labor solidarity march the following week and the convergence on Times Square this past weekend. It seems that the usual dismissive criticisms and back-handed compliments from supposed allies have failed to overshadow tangible victories, like the one that occurred last Friday when thousands converged in the dawn hours to prevent the police from emptying the park. With each victory the movement draws more sympathizers into the fold, but simultaneously rankles the very powerful interests and institutions that are threatened by this type of nascent mass-movement.

I'm surprised and heartened by the movement's success. In the end, however, if either tangible reforms or revolutionary change are going to be affected by the Occupy movement it is important that we not only preach to the liberal left/choir, but win enough converts to our general point of view to either pressure the political establishment to enact legislative change, or circumvent the existing structures and organize around some other socioeconomic structure. So far, I fear that what the Occupy movement has achieved is unifying and activating the roughly half of the nation's population that shares a generally progressive view. And this is important in itself. What of the other half? Those who have a profoundly different view of what constitutes “justice” or “fairness.” The ones who shout at us as we march down the streets of Manhattan to “Stop protesting, and get off your asses!”
When I saw a piece by George Lakoff in Truthout this week, billed as his advice to Occupy Wall Street on how to present itself to the world at large, I was interested. I was familiar with his thoughts about how political ideas exist within cognitive frames. He describes how the political worldviews of most individuals are not based on rational inquiry but on an emotional response based on a cognitive framework. The framework is a set of arbitrary moral judgments. Lakoff's work in this field has always seemed generally valid to me. The left sees individuals as irrevocably part of a larger society.  The right sees the individual as autonomous and ultimately responsible for his own actions. The left sees a need for nurturing and collective decision making, while the right looks only for the individual's right to act freely, responsibly and in self-interest.

In identifying these important root differences in point of view I feel that Lakoff has been particularly astute. I've always been frustrated by the fact that no amount of economic statistics on income inequality or social mobility can cut through the typical conservative's ironclad belief that it is the individual's personal responsibility to find work, to the extent that if there were five jobs available to the twenty six million un- and underemployed in America, it would be the individual's responsibility to be one of the five most educated, hard-working and diligent applicants, and if they weren't, there would be no right to complain or petition government to help them in their situation. Lakoff in his short essay proposes to have some insight into how we can circumvent the conservative framework and become a more truly mass-movement. In my opinion though, he seems to ignore the basis of his own ideas when formulating his advice.
Lakoff goes on to claim that what the Occupy movement needs to do in order to win hearts and minds is to cram its own goals and principles into a superficially conservative framework and then expect conservatives to be bamboozled into agreeing. It seems to me that this is doomed to failure and shouldn't be seriously considered by anyone involved. He claims that Occupy Wall street should declare itself a “moral” movement and go on to explain to its detractors that it is society's moral duty to nurture the individual. He himself, however, has already clearly explained why this is next to impossible. A conservative's morality is based on a framework where free-will decisions are either punished with destitution or rewarded with wealth. For the society to “nurture” the individual in hope of insuring her success is doomed to failure and at any rate, rife with moral hazard. I would like to propose a different tack in trying to reach out to those who don't already agree with the general left-leaning point of view of the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Simply by coming into existence, Occupy Wall Street has begun to challenge the overall conservative ideological framework, not by attempting to work within it, but by loudly and clearly presenting the opposite framework. It has shown with the thousands who have shown up at Liberty Square and marched and rallied for more specific causes (Labor rights, a legally-enforced living wage, foreclosure relief and affordable housing, environmental concerns about hydro-fracking and the nuclear industry) that the conservative framework's deficiencies left-unchallenged have produced suffering in the 99% that will no longer be met with apathy. It has always seemed to me not that the vast majority of Americans are conservative in their world view, but that those who are are louder, more consistent and supported by most of the powerful institutions of the media. Now, with the Internet technology as a world-straddling megaphone and multiple physical spaces delineated as breeding grounds for activism, consciousness-raising and civil disobedience, our side just might have the power to push back and win a significant number of converts. I fear that following Mr. Lakoff's advice would simply dampen this energy and if anything, reinforce conservative's belief that their framework is so superior to ours that we must adopt it even as we try to fight it.

Cyrus Kleege

Views from the ANThill: Conversations on Fairness and Power

An evening sunset on the author's walk home from the center of
town in Southern Belize.
Photo courtesy of doug reeser.

by douglas reeser on October 28, 2011
During the process of fieldwork, there is always present the innumerable conversations that have little or nothing to do with your actual research focus. Such conversations are an integral part of settling into your research community and building rapport with the people and places in which you are spending your time. During my first few months here in Belize, I have had many such discussions.

For example, one day as I was walking to the center of town for lunch, I took a route that passed by the home and business of a couple with whom I hope to involve in my research. As I passed by, the wife of the couple yelled out a greeting, and waved me over. I had offered to help her with some work on local food recipes a few weeks earlier, and walked over to catch up. Her husband was nearby, working on a large wooden carving with a friend. He too called me over, and after talking with his wife for a few minutes, I joined him as he worked on the details of his carving. He handed me some sand paper to help with his work, and we began to chat about a variety of things ranging from art to politics.

Voices of Occupy: Call to Action from LA

Poster by Eric,
Recycled Minds has reached out to activists taking part in the Occupy movement, and the initial response has been great! In the coming weeks we will be sharing a variety of experiences, perspectives, and ruminations from people who are on the ground at Occupy sites around the country.

Our first Occupied guest blogger is a friend from Occupy LA who has worked diligently over the past few weeks to organize and manage a food tent and otherwise distribute sustenance and support to other occupiers.

We would love to hear from more occupiers, so if you have your own Occupy experience that you would like to share, send us an email.

I don't get riled up easily. However, I'm SO SICK AND TIRED of people being snarky/negative about the Occupy movement! First they say that there is no focus, then no future. Hmm. Well, as you can see from the first call to action in July from Adbuster (link here), the original Occupy demand was

"We demand that Barack Obama ordain a Presidential Commission tasked with
ending the influence money has over our representatives in Washington." 

That's a pretty specific focus, folks. Ah, you say, but that's not what people are saying now, a month into the WallSt protests!   As East Stroudsburg, Pa newspaper The Pocono Record noted about a local solidarity march,

 "Occupy movement activists ...have been criticized by some for having so many different gripes. But one of them said:  it's important that protesters have many grievances. If they just focus on one thing, then there is less of a chance that a sea-change will occur in the culture.  'It can't just be about tuition or jobs or the economy or the wars. It's got to be about many things, because right now, many things aren't working,' said Joseph DeBartolo, a political science major at East Stroudsburg University."

If nothing else, if there is a beginning, or even an attempt to separate money from politics, things will be better for everyone.  If taxes are increased upon the wealthy 1%, it will make an improvement for everyone. Yes, EVERYONE.  As former World Bank leader and Nobel prize winner Joseph Steiglitz said in Of the 1%, by the 1%,, for the 1%, "looking out for the other guy isn’t just good for the soul—it’s good for business."   Inarguably, the current financial system is predatory, economic inequality in this country too extreme.  In most first world countries a company CEO makes between 11 and 30 times the salary of an average worker – in this country it's over 450 times that – that is not just, and it’s certainly not “productive.”  That must be changed, and everyone, from the Tea Party through the middle class, agrees the corporate influence over our government must be removed. How? Well, it's the job of legislators to listen to voters and implement changes.  It's high time they do exactly that.

And if those who like to negate rather than act are correct?  If nothing changes in the government? Well, then, STILL SOMETHING GOOD HAS COME OUT OF IT--this dialogue. When the 'negative nancy's' chime in with: It's never going to go anywhere, do anything, be anyone, all I can think is: sheesh! Are you kidding me?! You are TALKING about it!  You are talking about power distribution and food manipulation and taxes. You are talking about big vs small corporations. You are talking about lobbies and voting.   Middle America has huddled down, pretending they're OK for so long that we've not looked around realizing EVERYONE has it hard right now...excepting the very few. 

Previously with a protest of any sort, people would go around with signs, shout, march, feel good and go home.  And yes, small changes tend to happen in small ways with organized protests with a focus. This is more than that--this is a large scale long term protest with many demands, hoping for a LARGE CHANGE to our society, and the way society, the way WE THE 100% deal with distribution of money and politics and (im)balance of power. What's different about this movement is that people are sticking around, speaking with one another, figuring out what we want collectively and how to get it. SOMETHING GOOD HAS ALREADY COME OF IT--you, and others thinking and talking about it.  Yes, laws from NY, to LA, and all across the USA have already changed, been implemented, regarding banks, foreclosures, and local taxation.  Yet, as far as I'm concerned it is not the specific goals that matter.  The seeds of change have been planted.  Look around, and listen too:  the dialogue IS the powerful wonderful good thing that has come out of the Occupy Together movement. 

So I leave you. It's Day 18 from the OccupyLA site at City Hall with NO ARRESTS, a kitchen tent and festival food permit coming in 2 days, and a grass donation to reseed the lawn when we're gone. We've changed a law regarding the way our city deals with bank foreclosures, we're feisty and thirsty (it's been 85-90 degrees), and we're marching, and talking, and voting and creating.  How 'bout you?

PS: if you're interested, i highly recommend these 3 links: This article, written during the "Arab Spring" insurrections by Joseph Stieglitz. It's short, but remarkably farsighted.  This page, putting individual faces/stories to the ambiguous 99% We are the 99% .  And this very simple list of 5 facts: about the wealthiest one% of Americans

The Plentitude Economy: Less Work, More Social Capital

by douglas reeser on October 15, 2011
In these times of social unrest and widespread protest, it feels like the time for real change is upon us. The ways that we have structured our social, political and economic lives are struggling (if not crumbling), but it can seem overwhelming when we attempt to think of a new path forward. The above video from the Center for a New American Dream may help put us on that path. The center aims "to cultivate a new American dream—one that emphasizes community, ecological sustainability, and a celebration of non-material values, while upholding the spirit of the traditional American dream of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Their proposal for a "Plentitude Economy" certainly aligns with these goals.

In short, a Plentitude Economy would seek to reduce the ecological impact of all sectors, including our personal lives, corporate production, and governmental activity. A Plentitude Economy would work to get us off of our dependence on fossil fuels, and look to alternatives for our energy sources. But such an approach also critiques the concept of growth, claiming that continued growth will result in the continued degradation of natural resources. At the same time the new economy will need to create jobs, and get the many of the 14 million people out of work in the U.S. (as of September 2011) back to work.

An increase in the availability of work is integral to the success of any path forward, and the Plentitude Economy argues that if we change how we spend our time - as a society - work will become available, and we may be able to satisfy many of our needs outside of the traditional market. If we reduce the amount of time that we work, say from a five day work week, to a four day week, work will become available for others - more people working fewer hours. And now comes the personal changes, which are already evident in the increasingly popular DIY (Do It Yourself) movement. In the time freed up with the switch to a four day work week, we must focus on engaging with and supporting our local communities. This is a call for us to develop our social capital. Grow food, brew beer, make art, build and create - and then share it with those around you - develop relationships and build a local community and a local economy that can buffer against larger global fluctuations in the market and economy.

This is the Plentitude Economy. It's a simple approach, but one that begins to offer a new vision of a way forward.

This IS Anthropology!

by douglas reeser on October 13, 2011
Anthropology is a commonly misunderstood discipline. For many, it is not all that clear what anthropologists actually do, especially because there are few job positions with the actual title of "Anthropologist." Yet anthropologists work in a variety of roles in a variety of fields. We seek to understand humans and human activity in the present and the past, and more often than not, we are working toward the improvement of the lives of those we work with.

Indigenous Peoples Day

Maya from Guatemala and Belize, along with visitors
from around the world, celebrate Indigenous Peoples
Day in 2009 at the ancient Maya site of Tikal.
Photo for Recycled Minds by doug reeser.
by douglas reeser on October 10, 2011
October 10th is celebrated as a national holiday by many in the U.S., and Columbus Day celebrations in cities like New York, Denver and San Francisco continue to include parades. These events have become increasingly problematic to many people around the world, especially since 1992 (the 500 year anniversary of the "discovery" of the Americas). Indigenous peoples throughout the Americas and elsewhere have begun to speak up and reclaim the day as Indigenous Peoples Day.

As a regular reader of the website, Indigenous People's Issues and Resources, I caught the release of their statement on October 10th explaining why they advocate for Indigenous People's Day:
An estimated 100 million indigenous peoples were eradicated during the process of Europe's colonization of the western hemisphere. Christopher Columbus did not "discover" America, yet the continued recognition of his landing highlights the ongoing struggle of indigenous peoples against this colonial atrocity. Today, please remember to correctly inform people that this is Indigenous Peoples Day - not Columbus Day.
The move to honor indigenous peoples at this time of year has also caught on at some of the Occupy Wall Street protests around the U.S.. Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! caught up with indigenous activist, Roberto Múcaro Borrero, at the protests in Liberty Square in New York City. Goodman asked Múcaro, a a representative of the United Confederation of Taino People, why he and other indigenous people were at the protests on Columbus day. He replied:  
Well, for us, it’s actually Indigenous Peoples Day. And for the Taíno people, who were the first indigenous peoples in the Western Hemisphere to be contacted by Columbus, to be impacted by the colonial machine that took—that was set in motion after that initial contact, we’re here to say that Columbus is not a day. We’re here to join with other people’s voices in saying there needs to be an end to the cycle of colonialism and greed. So I’m happy to be here with everybody.
I had the fortunate opportunity to experience an Indigenous Peoples Day celebration with at least a few hundred Maya people from Guatemala and Belize in 2009 (check out my short video of the event here). The celebration started in a small town in Guatemala, where hundreds of people gathered at a rural Maya school to begin preparation ceremonies and rituals. From about 4:00 in the afternoon through about 3:00 in the morning, marimba music echoed through the hall, as people danced, listened to speeches, and took part in healing rituals by traditional Maya healers. 

At 3am, the people started loading onto old school buses and began the trek to the ancient Maya site of Tikal. There we were joined by hundreds more from Maya villages throughout Guatemala. There were more speeches, and proclamations, and many denounced colonialism, capitalism, and the continued repression and marginalization of indigenous people. They called on their brothers and sisters to the north to join in the struggle. Finally, the people marched in a procession to the main square at Tikal, where about a dozen traditional healers held ceremony around the ancient fire pit at the center of the square and at the base of the pyramids. With a huge fire raging, healings of many types were offered to Maya and visitors throughout the day. 

As a supporter of indigenous peoples and traditions, I have been advocating for their rights for many years. The experience two years ago at Tikal cemented within me the importance of maintaining and celebrating all that indigenous and traditional cultures have to offer the world. I have friends at this event at Tikal right now, and while not there in person, I am there in spirit, and I offer my support to such a meaningful cause. It is especially gratifying to witness many brothers and sisters in the north joining the struggle against the continued colonialism of our day. Happy Indigenous Peoples Day!

First Friday Picture Show: the Food of Tender Branson

This month's Picture Show comes from Tender Branson, whose website,, is a must-read! Says Tender about his passion for cooking and music:
"When I was a kid I attended my aunt’s wedding. All I noticed was the food and music. Those junior high dances? Food and music. Birthday parties? Food and music. Social gatherings? Food and music. Activisim opportunites? Food and music. So it was only natural that when I felt the need to start a blog I combined the two things that have been constants in my life.
"The original intention of Write.Click.Cook.Listen was for me to create a recipe and attach music to it. Throughout the years it has expanded to include band submitted recipes, artist interviews, songs about food, food themed playlists, food politics and restaurant reviews. No matter which direction the blog goes in, the same two interests remain at the heart of it. Food and music."
Because of the popularity of the Recycled Minds Picture Show, we will be posting new shows every First Friday. Stay tuned for November's, and, in the meantime, enjoy Tender Branson's delicious photos!

Decolonizing Diets: the Traditional Foods Challenge

A Q'eqchi' Maya homegarden in southern Belize with numerous
traditional foods. Photo by doug reeser for Recycled Minds.
by douglas reeser on October 5, 2011
Food is one of my favorite things. Most simply, food keeps us alive, and there is nothing quite like a delicious meal that is prepared with quality ingredients, experience and love. On the flip side, some of the best foods can be eaten fresh-picked and raw. Food is also an integral aspect of culture and ethnicity, and food traditions can be fascinating and delicious. I have done research on food, and I blog about food, and it remains a subject that I love to study, research, and enjoy!

All of this is leading me to an interesting project called the Decolonizing Diet Project, initiated by Professor Martin Reinhardt, Anishinaabe Ojibway and Assistant Professor of Native American Studies at Northern Michigan University. Starting in March of 2012, along with a cohort of students and colleagues, Reinhardt will begin an inspiring food adventure: to eat only pre-contact, indigenous Anishinaabe Ojibway foods for one year. The project has become quite serious, as it has been approved by the Internal Review Board at Northern Michigan University, and will have gone through a full year of planning by the start this spring.

In support of the Decolonizing Diet Project, and in honor of the American Indian Health and Diet Project, there will be a mini-challenge with the same goal - to eat only pre-contact foods - during the first week of November of 2011. Devon Abbott Mihesuah, who is promoting the two projects, explains:
"Traditional" for these projects means pre-contact foods. No beef, mutton, goat, chicken, pork, eggs, milk, butter, cream, wheat flour (no fry bread), rye, barley, okra, black-eyed peas, or any other "Old World" foods that a lot of us have lovingly incorporated into our diets and tribal cultures. No processed foods even if the base is corn or potatoes (that is, fried chips; ones you bake or dry yourself are ok). Drinks consist of water, herb tea and beverages you may know how to make, such as mescal and pulque. Chocolate candy is not on the list unless it is unsweetened or sweetened with honey (of the Melipona bee--honey bees are indigenous to Europe), fruit, stevia, camas oragave. The diet may take a bit of planning!
While the projects are interesting and fun, the importance of such work should not be ignored. As noted above, traditional foods were not processed or sugar and chemical filled. In many native and indigenous communities around the world, traditional diets are being replaced by diets largely created by the move towards corporate globalization. These new diets are low cost (but still must be purchased), can be shipped long distances (and thus reach remote corners of the globe), and are typically highly processed, high in sugars and salts, and generally unhealthy. This change has resulted in a startling increase in the frequency of diet-related disease among indigenous communities. Remembering, promoting, and consuming traditional diets can serve as a means of doing the same to indigenous and traditional practices, while promoting health at the same time.

Learn more about these projects, share the information with others you know, and join other people around the world as the try to eat traditional foods for a week in November, a year starting in the Spring, or anytime you can manage!

Visit the Decolonizing Diet Project (DDP) blog here >>>

Visit the American Indian Health and Diet Project here >>>

Visit the Mini-Diet Challenge: A Week of Eating Indigenous Foods blog here >>>

Prisons and Poverty

by lana lynne on October 2, 2011
Compared to the 1970s, the U.S. today incarcerates six times as many prisoners. This doesn't mean that crime has increased, but rather that punishment has increased --  this statistic measures prisoners for every 10,000 index crimes (crimes nationally defined by the FBI to measure crime rates) committed in 1975 compared to today. We've talked in the past about how people characterize the modern-day prison system to the slave plantations of the antebellum South, given the disproportionate number of incarcerated African-Americans compared to other racial and ethnic groups. On the other hand, here are two pieces that talk about class and the prison system, a topic that seems to generate a lot of criticism ranging from being disconnected to reality to promoting class warfare.

A Pennsylvania Prison, 1855
Loic Wacquant's article, "The punitive regulation of poverty in the neoliberal age," published this summer, looks at how and why the prison system has swelled so much in the past 30 years and how we can best understand its consequences. Wacquant makes three compelling points. First, the increase in penalization stems from social insecurity rather than an increase in crime, which strives to keep an insecure and heavily penalized working class. Second, we can't look at penal policy without the context of social policy and the shift from welfare to workfare (which he defines as "forced participation in sub par employment as a condition of support"). And third, this treatment helps reinforce the "reality" rather than the ideology of the neoliberal state, dividing people along class lines and eroding civic trust and democracy.

The other piece comes from Paul Wright, editor of Prison Legal News, who writes in the opening to his essay, "The Crime of Being Poor,"  that in order to understand who goes to prison and why, we must ask what prisons are for. Wright argues that, given the majority of prisoners are below the poverty line, prisons' number one priority is social control of the lower classes who otherwise would challenge the status quo.

The question of whether prisons "work" to discourage crime or keep a safe citizenry seems obsolete. As long as they continue to be profit-driven -- in more ways than just "making money" -- things will only worsen.