The criminalization of a subgroup is a time honored means of subjugating a group of people. A rapidly growing prison population leads one to question the efficacy of incarceration. As John Maynard Keynes once said, "Capitalism is the astounding belief that the wickedest of men will do the wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone". In a materialistic world, a prison is just like any other investment. For there to be a return on my investment, profits have to out-way the expenses; for prisons it means, you need an ever increasing number of prisoners in order to increase your profit margins and keep investors happy. To assure a continuous stream of "customers", a coalition of the "morally outraged" and the power brokers created a criminal justice system that assured an unending supply of prisoners. This is the world Baowen Huang finds himself in Ha Jin's, The Bridegroom. As with many social experiments, nothing brings a community together like a continuous relentless threat. Show people a boogie man and they will give up their freedom for security; point to a group as being the source of their miserly and they will forget a time honored Benjamin Franklin saying those who give up their liberty for more security neither deserve neither liberty nor security. It's then not surprising; a group of people have capitalized on fear and created a criminal justice system whose central pillar is a prison network; since a prison is the goose that lays a golden egg. .
The premise behind imprisonment was an aversion to inhumane punishment rendered before the 18th century. (The Oxford History of the Prison: The Practice of Punishment in Western Society Norval Morris). As rulers tried to find the means of controlling their subjects while administering punishment, incarceration became a means of achieving both goals. It then follows dungeons had to me built to house prisoners.