"The way to get to understanding how prisons function and their social place is to re-conceptualize crime. And the way to do that is to get back to what defines a crime, which is law."
Or, as Blake put it:
Prisons are built with stones of law. Brothels, with bricks of religion.
Most people who are in U.S. prisons right now are there because they are poor, black, disabled, or drug users. The fact that they committed a "crime" is not actually the key factor. I personally know plenty of middle class to upper middle class to rich white people who have also committed crimes who are not in prison. These crimes include: drug manufacture, incest, rape, murder, theft, extortion -- most of these, serious, violent crimes.
Yes, there will always be the Dahmers; but they will be a mere handful -- they represent less than 1% of the current prison population.
One of the reasons I deeply respect Angela Davis is because she stood out among the radical left to have taken up the issue of prisons, which she has been working on for over a generation.