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The term "prison-industrial complex" (PIC) is used to attribute the rapid expansion of the US inmate population to the political influence of private prison companies and businesses that supply goods and services to government prison agencies. The term is derived from the "military-industrial complex" of the 1950s. Such groups include corporations that contract prison labor, construction companies, surveillance technology vendors, lawyers, and lobby groups that represent them. Activists[who?] have argued that the prison-industrial complex is perpetuating a flawed belief that imprisonment is an effective solution to social problems such as homelessness, unemployment, drug addiction, mental illness, and illiteracy.
The term 'prison industrial complex' has been used to describe a similar issue in other countries' prisons of expanding populations.
The promotion of prison-building as a job creator and the use of inmate labor are also cited as elements of the prison-industrial complex. The term often implies a network of actors who are motivated by making profit rather than solely by punishing or rehabilitating criminals or reducing crime rates. Proponents of this view, including civil rights organizations such as The Rutherford Institute and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), believe that the desire for monetary gain has led to the growth of the prison industry and the number of incarcerated individuals.
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