Perpetual Prisoner Machine
The "Perpetual Prisoner Machine" is a phrase coined by journalist Joel Dyer to explain one of the theories surrounding the massive increase in incarceration throughout the US despite the drop in crime. His book, The Perpetual Prisoner Machine: How America Profits from Crime, asserts that big Business and politicians are in league to raise the incarceration rate in the US for personal and financial gain.
Dyer asserts that by using media as an outlet (see Mean World Syndrome), the American people can be scared into electing so-called "tough on crime" politicians who make holding a small amount of weed a crime punishable by prison time. He also claims that businesses such as AT&T, BM, and Victoria's Secret profit from crime due to the cheap labor prison provides. As the average US prisoner is paid only between $.20 and $1.20/hour, the companies can turn a huge profit on the manufacture of their goods. Many other companies such as Dove Soap, Verizon, and others profit by having prisoners use their products. Also, since politicians gain many campaign donations from these companies, it benefits them to vote for "tough on crime" legislation that will put more individuals in jail.
Another facet of this concept is that prisons benefit from the deplorable conditions the inmates are kept in because they cause prisoners to reoffend and thus be sent back to prison after they are released. Assertions here can range from the wacky (soap is made slippery so the inmates drop it, are raped, traumatized, then go on to commit more violent crimes) to the plausible (sadistic prison guards cause inmates to have contempt for authority and therefore make them more likely to reoffend). From the beginning of mass incarceration in the 19th century, it has been claimed that prisons serve to educate prisoners in better ways to commit crime, and that being housed with fellow (and more serious) criminals will have negative effects. Given that the US recidivism rate hovers at around 75%, it can be hard to see this as anything but plausible.