Prison is a form of animal exploitation that is inconsistent with veganism.
Veganism particularly refers to the abstinence of consumption of animal products (i.e. meat, eggs, dairy), but the underlying philosophy is a belief in animal rights that opposes all forms of commodification of animals. This position goes beyond diet to include any form of animal captivity that is used to benefit humans- such as zoos, rodeos, labs for animal experimentation, etc.
Prisons are institutions that hold humans in captivity. Those held in prisons have been arrested, charged and convicted of crimes. The forms of captivity vary significantly based on each specific institution and different categorization within the institution. Some are held in solitary confinement where they spend 23 or 24 hours a day in a cage, while some stay in general population where they engage with other inmates. However, in all situations, the prisoners are confined to the prison and their mobility and freedom is restricted by the prison and the guards that run it.
In the United states, an interconnected collection of political and economic forces are combined to establish what is referred to as the “Prison-Industrial Complex” or “PIC.” Critical Resistance describes the PIC this way:
Through its reach and impact, the PIC helps and maintains the authority of people who get their power through racial, economic and other privileges. There are many ways this power is collected and maintained through the PIC, including creating mass media images that keep alive stereotypes of people of color, poor people, queer people, immigrants, youth, and other oppressed communities as criminal, delinquent, or deviant. This power is also maintained by earning huge profits for private companies that deal with prisons and police forces; helping earn political gains for “tough on crime” politicians; increasing the influence of prison guard and police unions; and eliminating social and political dissent by oppressed communities that make demands for self-determination and reorganization of power in the US.
One of the defining features of the PIC is the profit motive, as mentioned by Critical Resistance. There are corporations that rely on massive numbers being held in captivity in order to make money for their shareholders. Because of the financial interest in prisons, these businesses also actively lobby politicians for increased incarceration. There are a myriad of ways that these corporations profit from humans being incarcerated. I will elaborate in future posts, but briefly- businesses have contracts with the prison where they provide materials (clothes, food, beds, etc.) and importantly, many businesses rely on compulsory prison labor. These businesses rely on the exploitation of human labor, with inmates getting paid next to nothing (literally pennies an hour) and the companies sell the products at a huge mark-up, making massive profit.
Let me restate that because it is a crucial point: Humans are kept in captivity and forced to work for the financial benefit of other humans.
Another crucial point is the scientific fact that humans, a mammal species, are animals. After acknowledging that humans are animals and recognizing that prisons are institutions that keep human animals in captivity for the economic benefit of other animals, it becomes clear that the Prison-Industrial Complex is inconsistent with veganism.
Prison is animal suffering. Prison is animal exploitation. Prison is not vegan.