"Prison Song" as written by Daron Malakian, Serj Tankian, Shavo Odadjian and John Dolmayan....
They're trying to build a prison
They're trying to build a prison

Following the rights movements
You clamped on with your iron fists
Drugs became conveniently
Available for all the kids
Following the rights movements
You clamped on with your iron fists
Drugs became conveniently
Available for all the kids

I buy my crack, I smack my bitch
Right here in Hollywood

Nearly two million Americans are incarcerated
In the prison system, prison system
Prison system of the U.S.

They're trying to build a prison
They're trying to build a prison
They're trying to build a prison
(For you and me to live in)
Another prison system
Another prison system
Another prison system
(For you and me)

Minor drug offenders fill your prisons
You don't even flinch
All our taxes paying for your wars
Against the new non-rich
Minor drug offenders fill your prisons
You don't even flinch
All our taxes paying for your wars
Against the new non-rich

I buy my crack, I smack my bitch
Right here in Hollywood

The percentage of Americans in the prison system
Prison system, has doubled since 1985

They're trying to build a prison
They're trying to build a prison
They're trying to build a prison
(For you and me to live in)
Another prison system
Another prison system
Another prison system
(For you and me)

They're trying to build a prison
They're trying to build a prison
They're trying to build a prison
For you and me
Oh baby, you and me

All research and successful drug policies show
That treatment should be increased
And law enforcement decreased
While abolishing
Mandatory minimum sentences
All research and successful drug policies show
That treatment should be increased
And law enforcement decreased
While abolishing
Mandatory minimum sentences

Utilizing drugs to pay for
Secret wars around the world
Drugs are now your global policy
Now you police the globe

I buy my crack, I smack my bitch
Right here in Hollywood

Drug money is used to rig elections
And train brutal corporate sponsored
Dictators around the world

They're trying to build a prison
They're trying to build a prison
They're trying to build a prison
(For you and me to live in)
Another prison system
Another prison system
Another prison system
(For you and me)

They're trying to build a prison
They're trying to build a prison
They're trying to build a prison
For you and me
Oh baby, you and me


Lyrics submitted by F4RiD, edited by JulesGatz, ErikO

"Prison Song" as written by Shavo Odadjian Daron Malakian

Lyrics © Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd., Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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Prison Song song meanings
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89 Comments

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  • +5
    General CommentI think this song is an attempt to draw the listeners attention to the way in which criminal justice policy in the US has become increasingly punitive and removed from research recommendations in the last 30 or so years. In particuar, it expresses outrage at the rapid expansion of imprisonment since the 1980s (the US is now the world's biggest incarcerator - incarcerating people at a rate of about 750 for every 100,000 of the general population I think). Something tells me that its no coincidence that inequality has dramatically increased over the same period - as inequality increases governments need to use increasingly repressive measures to keep the poor in check. Anyway, as alluded to by SOAD, the main cause of this RIDICULOUS rise in prison numbers can be attributed to the so called "war on drugs" and the introduction of mandatory minimum sentences. Rather than reserving prison for dangerous (violent and sexual) offenders, it is now being used far more widely and innapropriately for large numbers of petty drug offenders, who as SOAD note - research has proven would benefit hugely from treatment rather than incarceration. The rapid expansion of imprisonment is also a HUGELY expensive way of dealing with petty drug offenders who tend to be socially excluded individuals ("all your taxes paying for the new non-rich") and has meant that the US now spends more on the prison system alone, nevermind the rest of the criminal justice system, than it does on education! So I suppose this song is really just an attempt to draw attention to this fucked up situation.
    Santeria1on April 29, 2011   Link
  • +2
    General Commenti applaud SOAD for writing this song. not only are they amazing musicians, but they have great political views. and that is something i respect. in this age of boy bands and britney spears, its great to hear music that actually has a purpose.
    ltjpezgirlon April 14, 2002   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI like the first verse: "following the rights movements you clamped down with your iron fists." After the movement in the 60s which involved a lot of protestors who happened to take a lot of drugs. GOvernments hate mind expanding substances because they allow people to think for themselves and oppose the government, so they crack down on em.
    On the outside, they act like they want to protect us and our children from the drugs and drug users, yet they cash in on the criminal activity and keep it going. They use it as another way to keep the rich rich...FOr example, in African countries, there are dictators who are sponsored by western corporations and drug money, and we claim to be spreading freedom and democracy. Meanwhile, we are just kept ignorant of what consciousness altering drugs should and should not be used for. Instead of given facts about the benefits of safe drug use, we're told they're all bad and will end up in prison if we do them.
    thai cuisineon June 28, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThe most... 'frightening' song I've heard from them. I've heard these things. Drug runners bribe our dear sweet government and in turn, the government outlaws lesser or non-destructive drugs to direct more money to the black market so more drug money laces the pockets of their corrupt, pompous asses so they can sit on something soft while they make the "lesser men" seat themselves in hardass coffins called prisons.

    Bottom line, the government has no desire to stop corruption... they're as corrupt as three quarters or more of this blue but bloody little rock and they LUST for that money because they have a system...a loop... a spiral of twisted agony and laughter and they don't give a SHIT what happens to us!!!

    Taking the thought this far...it pisses me off. It ALL pisses me off!!!
    CloudLevion November 17, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThis song has a great bass.
    mediocremurphyon January 21, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthis song is about the justice system and how it uses its money for useless causes and takes advantage of the people
    overthrownempireon January 10, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthis song is about the damn government and how they use money for useless shit
    kanDiepunkon January 16, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthis song is about how the government is just jailing minor drug offenders so it looks like they're doing something about the drug problem when they ain't doing shit, cos u can still buy your crack even in hollywood. then they try and say the government does this to cover up the fact that they profit from the drug problems across america
    complete_loneron January 20, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis is probably System of a Down's most straightforward song lyrics-wise.
    As already stated its about the american government using minor drug-offences, and the jailing of the offenders to cover-up the larger scale problem that still remains.
    Its about governments using (directly or otherwise) the money from drugs to do they're stupid little schemes.
    "I buy my crack, I smake my bitch, Right here in holywood" personally enforces th view that celebraties can (and do) get away with murder, simply because of their status.
    Finally (and i dont think this has been touched on yet - could be wrong) Zero Tolerence policing (They're trying to build a prison for you and me).
    suicide_alon February 13, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think this song is the Sheeeeeeit! Down with Government!
    RimmyJiceon February 16, 2002   Link

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