Jailhouse Roc: The FACTS About Hip Hop and Prison for Profit

Homeboy Sandman

Homeboy Sandman

GoldenUndergroundTV recently released an interview I did with them late last year. I got a bit animated at the end. Only so many interviews in a row I could handle being asked about Chief Keef.

My tirade wasn’t really about Chief Keef. It wasn’t about Gucci Mane or Wocka Flocka or any of the acts spontaneously catapulted into stardom by synchronized mass media coverage despite seemingly universal indifference (at the very best) regarding their talent. Whose arrests, involvement in underaged pregnancies, concert shootouts, and facial tattoos, dominate conversation for weeks at a time, with their actual music a mere afterthought, if thought of at all.

My tirade was about marketing. It was about media powers seeking out the biggest pretend criminal kingpins they can find, (many of whom who shamelessly adopt the names of actual real life criminal kingpins like 50 Cent and Rick Ross), and exalting them as the poster children for a culture. It was about an art form reduced to product placement, the selling of a lifestyle, and ultimately, a huge ad for imprisonment.

This is not my opinion.

Corrections Corporation of AmericaLast year Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the biggest name in the private prison industry, contacted 48 states offering to buy their prisons. One stipulation of eligibility for the deal was particularly bizarre: “an assurance by the agency partner that the agency has sufficient inmate population to maintain a minimum 90% occupancy rate over the term of the contract.

What kind of legitimate and ethical measures could possibly be taken to ensure the maintenance of a 90% prison occupancy rate?

Two months later an anonymous email was sent out to various members of the music and publishing industries giving an account of a meeting where it was determined that hip-hop music would be manipulated to drive up privatized prison profits. Its author, despite claiming to be a former industry insider, did not provide the names of anyone involved in the plot, nor did he specify by which company he himself was employed. As such, the letter was largely regarded as a fraud for lack of facts.

Here are facts:

stop-big-media-187x203Ninety percent of what Americans read, watch and listen to is controlled by only six media companies. PBS’s Frontline has described the conglomerates that determine what information is disseminated to the public as a “web of business relationships that now defines America’s media and culture.” Business relationships. Last year a mere 232 media executives were responsible for the intake of 277 million Americans, controlling all the avenues necessary to manufacture any celebrity and incite any trend. Time Warner, as owner of Warner Bros Records (among many other record labels), can not only sign an artist to a recording contract but, as the owner of Entertainment Weekly, can see to it that they get next week’s cover. Also the owner of New Line Cinemas, HBO and TNT, they can have their artist cast in a leading role in a film that, when pulled from theaters, will be put into rotation first on premium, then on basic, cable. Without any consideration to the music whatsoever, the artist will already be a star, though such monopolies also extend into radio stations and networks that air music videos. For consumers, choice is often illusory. Both BET and MTV belong to Viacom. While Hot 97, NYC’s top hip hop station, is owned by Emmis Communications, online streaming is controlled by Clear Channel, who also owns rival station Power 105.

None of this is exactly breaking news, but when ownership of these media conglomerates is cross checked with ownership of the biggest names in prison privatization, interesting new facts emerge.

Vanguard GroupAccording to public analysis from Bloomberg, the largest holder in Corrections Corporation of America is Vanguard Group Incorporated. Interestingly enough, Vanguard also holds considerable stake in the media giants determining this country’s culture. In fact, Vanguard is the third largest holder in both Viacom and Time Warner. Vanguard is also the third largest holder in the GEO Group, whose correctional, detention and community reentry services boast 101 facilities, approximately 73,000 beds and 18,000 employees. Second nationally only to Corrections Corporation of America, GEO’s facilities are located not only in the United States but in the United Kingdom, Australia and South Africa.

You may be thinking, “Well, Vanguard is only the third largest holder in those media conglomerates, which is no guarantee that they’re calling any shots.” Well, the number-one holder of both Viacom and Time Warner is a company called Blackrock. Blackrock is the second largest holder in Corrections Corporation of America, second only to Vanguard, and the sixth largest holder in the GEO Group.

There are many other startling overlaps in private-prison/mass-media ownership, but two underlying facts become clear very quickly: The people who own the media are the same people who own private prisons, the EXACT same people, and using one to promote the other is (or “would be,” depending on your analysis) very lucrative.

Such a scheme would mean some very greedy, very racist people.

There are facts to back that up, too.

Prison industry lobbyists developing and encouraging criminal justice policies to advance financial interests has been well-documented. The most notorious example is the Washington-based American Legislative Council, a policy organization funded by CCA and GEO, which successfully championed the incarceration promoting “truth in sentencing” and “three-strikes” sentencing laws. If the motive of the private prison industry were the goodhearted desire to get hold of inmates as quickly as possible for the purpose of sooner successfully rehabilitating them, maintenance of a 90% occupancy rate would be considered a huge failure, not a functioning prerequisite.

Likewise, the largest rise in incarceration that this country has ever seen correlates precisely with early-80’s prison privatizationThis despite the fact that crime rates actually declined since this time. This decreasing crime rate was pointed out enthusiastically by skeptics eager to debunk last year’s anonymous industry insider, who painted a picture of popularized hip-hop as a tool for imprisoning masses.  What wasn’t pointed out was that despite crime rates going down, incarceration rates have skyrocketed. While the size of the prison population changed dramatically, so did its complexion. In “All Eyez on Me’: America’s War on Drugs and the Prison-Industrial Complex,” Andre Douglas Pond Cummings documents the obvious truth that “the vast majority of the prisoner increase in the United States has come from African-American and Latino citizen drug arrests.”

war-on-drugsAdd to this well-documented statistics proving that the so-called “war on drugs” has been waged almost entirely on low-income communities of color, where up until just two years ago, cocaine sold in crack form fetched sentences 100 times as lengthy as the exact same amount of cocaine sold in powdered form, which is much more common in cocaine arrests in affluent communities. (In July 2010 the oddly named Fair Sentencing Act was adopted, which, rather than reducing the crack/powder disparity from 100-to-1 to 1-to-1, reduced it to 18-to-1, which is still grossly unfair.) This is not to suggest that the crack/powder disparity represents the extent of the racism rampant within the incarceration industry. The U.S. Sentencing Commission reported in March 2010 that in the federal prison system, even where convicted for the exact same crimes, people of color received prison sentences 10% longer . Where convictions are identical, mandatory minimum sentences are also 21% more likely for people of color.

Finally, let us not forget the wealth of evidence to support the notion that crime-, drug- and prison-glorifying hip-hop only outsells other hip-hop because it receives so much more exposure and financial backing, and that when given equal exposure, talent is a much more reliable indicator of success than content.

Mos def

Yasiin Bey aka Mos def

Yasiin Bey (formerly Mos Def) put it best; “‘hip-hop” is just shorthand for ‘black people.'” Before our eyes and ears, a “web of business relationships that now defines America’s media and culture” has one particular business raking in billions of dollars while another defines the culture of a specific demographic as criminal. Both business are owned by the same people. Mainstream media continue to endorse hip-hop that glorifies criminality (most notably drug trafficking and violence), and private prison interests, long since proven to value profits over human rights, usher in inmates of color to meet capacity quotas. The same people disproportionately incarcerated when exposed to the criminal justice system are at every turn inundated with media normalizing incarceration to the point that wherever there is mainstream hip-hop music, reference to imprisonment as an ordinary, even expected, component of life is sure to follow.

Conspiracy theorists get a lot of flak for daring entertain the notion that people will do evil things for money. Historical atrocities like slavery and the Holocaust are universally acknowledged, yet simultaneously adopted is the contradictory position that there can’t possibly be any human beings around intelligent enough and immoral enough to perpetrate such things.  Even in the midst of the Europe-wide beef that was actually horse-meat fiasco, and the release of real-life nightmare documenting films like “Sunshine and Oranges,” there is an abundance of people content to believe that the only conspiracies that ever exist are those that have successfully been exposed.

The link between mass media and the prison industrial complex, however, is part of a very different type of conversation.

The information in this article was not difficult to find; it is all public.

This is not a conspiracy. This is a fact.

Time Warner Cable Holdings

Viacom Prison Holdings

CCA Holdings

Private Prisons Public Functions

All Eyes on Me.. War on Drugs

written by Homeboy Sandman


56 comments on “Jailhouse Roc: The FACTS About Hip Hop and Prison for Profit

  1. Here is Mississippi in the past year alone we’ve had 2 (known) inmate deaths and 1 officer killed in private prisons owned by CCA yet no national media coverage of any of these. When you have everyone from Congressional members (example: Bennie Thompson, who serves on the Homeland Security committee, which oversees the Bureau of Prisons, has approved former high ranking private prison officials to positions in the BOP) to the local County supervisors controlled via money, you can see why hardly anyone knows how bad these prisons are operating if you are not in the know.

  2. Believe it or not it’s connected to a lot of Criminal Campaigns http://mindcontrolblackassassins.com/category/eyes-wide-shut/ like U.S. Military / CIA Intelligence using music to control masses , keep them doped up and not focusing on Political Issues . Hence , it’s why the Grateful Dead Band was such a great tool for Establishment Social Engineers keep hippies / dead heads mind on LSD , pot not Activism and same thing is happening to Hip Hop and black Community for the last thing the puppet masters want is Independent , Informed , clear thinking individuals . That includes Blacks , whites or Brown .
    They want you just smart enough to push buttons at the Factory …..

  3. What an awesome piece! We never think about those deep connections but we should. And be very concerned and act accordingly! Open our wyws and ears and READ MORE!!!! Thank you for your research and for sharing this!! PEACE!!!

  4. Reblogged this on Stats and Facts Sports and commented:
    This is a must read, and is very eye opening. A certain letter was circulated around the internet last year. Although it was widely believed to be a fraud, the information it contained can be linked to factual evidence. The main point of the letter was the strong connection between the music industry and private prisons. This connection is real and is looked at in this linked article on Davey D’s blog. Davey D is a hip hop historian, and is one of the most knowledgeable hip hop historians in the world. The article is definitely worth reading.

  5. Well jelly fish fork on Monsanto destabiliZEN tha media blow stock on womyns rights. I prepare some good coins on Kingz’n Queens counter surgencialee tha lobby wall ahead the global movement on body political healin…stay ruff on gossips tha street visual com_Intern…

  6. The sad thing is that our people only believe that something is true if,it is told to them by someone who consistently lies to them. Our people have a slave mentality that is worse than any case of PTSD ever recorded,and will more than likely not even be moved by the warning signs of their own demise. Our people will take two hours to discredit anyone in the same position as them, in order to get 2 seconds of praise from someone that despises them. This is not a natural behavior, it comes years of oppressive and repressive behavior that is the root cause of self hatred and the primary cause of failure in our communities. Our communities have been the primary source of exploitation for years because of these principles, and will continue to be until we again awaken a community that is not meant to thrive.

  7. Please read these informative article about what’s going on here in Mississippi (I’m featured in two of them) including the latest riot that resulted in one inmate death and 9 known injuries that required off-site medical treatment:


  8. Kent County Black Caucus attends Prison Privatization Forum

    On Saturday April 13, 2013, the Kent County Black Caucus members attended a statewide forum on Privatization of Prisons: Mass Incarceration and Prison Reform in Michigan held at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti , Michigan . The Forum was sponsored by the Washtenaw County Black Democratic Caucus (WCBDC) in collaboration with the Eastern Michigan University Department of Diversity and Community Involvement and the Division of Academic and Student Affairs. State Representative Fred Durhal, Jr. – District 5 was the Keynote speaker.

    The purpose of this forum was to bring together elected officials, community leaders and activist to: Educate our community about private prisons and the companies that build them; Examine legislation that governs and develops policy for our state prisons and judicial system; Explore best practices to address mass incarceration, the school-to-prison pipe line, prison reform and their impact on the local community.

    Michael Scruggs, Chairman of the Kent County Black Caucus stated, whether the Plan is public or private it hurts our community. The Power’s to be is looking towards incarcerating instead of educating our community by building prisons instead of schools, and demanding guarantees in their contracts. That is why we joined the resolution with the Washtenaw County Democratic Party Black Caucus (WCDPBC) in educating the community about House Bill 5174; that allows private corporations, such as GEO and Correction Corporations of America and others, to take over the operation of our public prison system. Driven by profit motive, these corporations are demanding contractual clauses from the State guaranteeing them a 90% occupancy rate. We advocate that private prisons are bad public policy and could cost taxpayers more than state-run prisons and force communities to create criminals in order to meet these contractual obligations.

    In the State of Michigan , there are 44,000 inmates, 58% of who are African Americans. The injustice Line has stated that Blacks are incarcerated at eight times the rate of whites. This has severe implications for the social, political and economic welfare of the African American community of Michigan and the United States of America . HB 5174 and similar legislation will threaten the Michigan economy by taking jobs from free citizens and undermining the union’s collective bargaining power and the Black communities’ quest to recover from the worst economic downturn since the great depression. It has been shown these private prison corporations has a history of perverting the judicial and legislative branches of the government to use Black People, racial minorities and the poor as pawns for their success.

    Michael B. Scruggs, Chairman

    Kent County Black Caucus

    (616) 706-9200


  9. Unfortunately for us here in Mississippi, a lot of the black state representatives are merely black faces that are puppets for the white powers that be (that want to open charter schools and allowing these private prisons to slave drive their employees (most of whom are black)). They know what’s going on but they have just give us the run around here. The Democratic party here is a joke and the NAACP is their watch dogs protecting their crooked ways

  10. Pingback: Who Owns the Private Prison Corporations? | Pueblo Lands

  11. Pingback: Jailhouse Roc: The FACTS About Hip Hop and Prison for Profit

  12. a brilliant brother lance williams of NEIU’s Center for Inner City Studies broke this down for my middle school students back in 2006 or 2007, and it’s gotten even worse. thank you for shedding light in a dark place. bless you

  13. In an era when big banks like Wachovia and HBSC launder drug money and get off with slap on the wrist fines and no criminal prosecutions, it’s not a stretch at all to think big media would want to encourage music that funnels people into their private prisons.

  14. Pingback: Big media uses gangster hip hop to funnel people into private prisons? - Not the Singularity

  15. Pingback: Notable Links: 4-26/13 | BROTHA WOLF

  16. People are waking up. Sadly, the institutions that crave their imprisonment are concrete in their stance. Be careful, me mateys! Great read, Homeboy Sandman!!!

  17. That’s what one of the TV reporters told me after I did an interview after a protest. You are dealing with billionaires, crooked heartless politicians (Bennie Thompson) and a lot of money.

  18. “Well jelly fish fork on Monsanto destabiliZEN tha media blow stock on womyns rights. I prepare some good coins on Kingz’n Queens counter surgencialee tha lobby wall ahead the global movement on body political healin…stay ruff on gossips tha street visual com_Intern…”

    Wow….I literally have never had such a strong urge to gouge my own eyes out, after trying to read an internet forum post (in what appears to be English, but I am really still not sure).

    Anyways, so I see you guys have found yet another way to blame “the evil white man” for the massive amount of black criminals that are becoming a disproportionate drain on society? Hey….at least this is original and not just spewing the same slavery crap again.

    So let me get this straight…..it’s not the gang bangers fault….it’s not the rappers fault….it’s not the reliance on gov entitlements….it’s not the horrible parenting or that having kids and welfare is basically a career choice now…..but rather a huge conspiracy by the 3rd largest owner in a private prison’s stock making the record company promote the gangsta rappers more than “normal” rappers? Oh and the source is anonymous, he can’t say where he used to work , wrote it himself, and is widely considered a fake?/ Bwahaha ok……

    This is delusional and borderline insane behavior. There is always some excuse, it’s slavery, not enough welfare, too much welfare, racism, private prisons, record companies, rappers (but not their fault because they are black and are just being controlled by white people somewhere to promote prison), etc. When is the majority of the community going to stand up and say….hey we have a problem and it’s time to stop blaming everyone else we can possibly think of and take an introspective look into our current culture and try to fix these problems? Have some pride and hold the responsible causes accountable. Because this constant state of denial exudes ignorance and blatant racism to be honest.

  19. Pingback: Author Shows Compelling Connection: Companies that Promote Violent Music Also Own Private Prisons | Your Black World | Habari Gani, America!

  20. “Economic and political control can never be complete or effective without mental control. To control a people’s culture is to control their tools of self-definition in relationship to others” – Ngugi, Decolonising the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature

  21. You gotta love conspiracy theorists. Apparently, hiphop music hypnotizes black people to commit crime, which causes us to fall in the hands of the prison industrial complex, all according to Dr. Evil’s plan. So, the problem isn’t that black people commit crime at a disproportionate rate or that single mother homes are the primary manufacturing center for these criminals; the problem is that record labels want to see blacks in jail, which fills their coffers and scores a point for good old white supremacy — killing two birds with one stone.

    If this were true, wouldn’t the greater problem be our susceptibility to such tricks? Actually, a better case could be made for seducing white people to crime, since they are the buying majority of hiphop music. If a record company owner was invested in Charmin tissue paper, what implication would that have for black people? In other words, you cannot draw a straight line from a securities investment to one’s own personal feelings about race. We, as black people, have to stop finding a new way to play the victim.

  22. Can any of you nay sayers actually prove this article wrong? with some facts to back it up? Or are you still going to push out some anecdotal bullshit and believe you are right? you gotta love people with their heads up their ass,and even when information is put right in front of them that they can research for themselves. the still continue to bury their heads up their ass`s even deeper..yes this article sure is trying to get a new way to play victim..but then again how is it a new way to play victim when the same atrocities still occur?

  23. To say “can any of you nay sayers actually prove this article wrong” assumes that he proved his case. The only thing he did was mention two disparate “facts” and drew a conspiratorial conclusion.

  24. I have been browsing online more than three hours nowadays, but I never found any fascinating article like yours.
    It is pretty price sufficient for me. In my opinion, if all
    site owners and bloggers made excellent content
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  25. Excellent article. As Killer Mike says on his track ‘Reagan,’ “free labour is the corner-stone of U.S. economics.” Thus the political freeing of people (not only getting rid of slavery, but share-cropping and segregation too) has to be compensated for by some extra measure. Capitalism will have to invent a new form of super-exploitation. Hence the insane growth of US prison industries since Reagan’s “neoliberal” regime took power, and have yet to give it back (insofar as Bushes, Clinton, and Obama are all continuing the tradition he inaugurated).

    Also if you liked this article, you have to check out “Cops exploit Toronto tragedy: How the State Seized Onto the Eaton Centre Shooting” for more info on a similar tip. http://civilizeddiscontent.blogspot.ca/2012/07/cops-exploit-toronto-tragedy-how-state.html

  26. Pingback: Public Enemy and Homeboy Sandman: Hip Hop over Hip Hop |

  27. Did anyone notice Sandman released an album on Stones Throw records and then within days started throwing stones? LOL If we blame labels for promoting gangsta rap, who can we blame for writing it?!!!

  28. Is this all just a joke? Did anyone notice Sandman signed up to Stones Throw Records, and curiously enough starts throwing stones within days of his album release! That’s classic marketing!

    Is this how it works? – Say we have person A, ends up in jail in late 2013 and blames it on the record label that released Chief Keef…..Cheif Keef blames his influence on the record label that released Lil Wayne…….Lil Wayne blames his influence on the label that put out 50 Cent……50 Cent blames his influences on the label that released Notorious BIG……Biggie blames the label that put out Junior Mafia……Junior Mafia blames the label that put out Ice T………Ice T blames it on the record label that put out Schoolly D……..Schoolly D blames it on the the realities of living in a tough urban environment……….

  29. “Oh yeah and another thing
    For all ya n***** that don’t do gangsta rap
    Don’t get on TV talking about gangsta rap
    Cause 9 times at a 10 you don’t know the f*** you talk about
    Talk about that bulls*** rap you do
    Stay the f*** out of mine ”
    (Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It)

  30. Pingback: Where the **** is Matt Lauer? – Chance The Rapper and the Psychological Effects of Violence [free music] | The Blog End Theory

  31. Pingback: “Where the **** is Matt Lauer?” – Chance the Rapper and the Psychological Effects of Violence [free music] | The Blog End Theory

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  35. I heard the author on Davey D’s show today and was extremely interested. His article laid it out clearly. Thank you Homeboy Sandman for stimulating real thought about this monumental subject.

  36. I have been saying this for years “you are what you eat” and if you decide to and gorge yourself on violent behavior and all other things that leads to imprisonment, that’s where you’ll be. I truly believe that the media does output such disdain and lack of knowledge for black people it bothers me that more people doesn’t recognize it. The media promotes the ideals of sex before love crime before hard work and money above all else. It’s a shame that we don’t see things for what they truly are. I am flabbergasted by the lack of morals that our society has idealized. The rate of teen pregnancy, broken homes,and lack of education will eventually lead to our demise. And I am very sad to say, that I don’t see a way out of it.

  37. What’s up everybody, here every one is sharing these kinds of experience, therefore it’s good to read this website, and I used to go to see this
    web site daily.

  38. I am a historian. I study the history of hip hop, the history of New York and the history of prisons in America. The above article makes so much sense, it has become obvious that the first rapid rise of incarcerations in the 1830’s was definitely caused by the marketing of negative hip hop.

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