The concept of punishment is rather straight forward in American society. Someone commits an infraction/crime and they are put on some type of restriction. An implicit part of punishment is fairness and justice. Fairness and justice are abstract and subjective, but they animate our opinions of the subject. This paradigm appears good on paper, but the reality is quite different. When society puts punishment into practice, punishment does not always work out in ways that are just or fair.
Take for example, anyone who is considered poor. Many people who are poor do not consider themselves as such because it is a stigma that most want to avoid. One of the most disturbing things about being poor is that it is quite expensive: a true paradox. They must be taught responsibility to pay fines which they cannot afford. If this is the case-then the proper punishment should be jail time. This cycle should be repeated until they learn their lesson: it is a crime to be poor.
Along the intersection of class, we have marginalized, racial minorities. Society labels them as vermin to be disposed of and their only value is to be the victim of some form of predatory capitalism. Next thing we know they comprise a majority of customers in prison. The price to be paid for that infraction is more than monetary. Although the rich tend to benefit from this situation, a broken society is the price that is paid.
This is a classic case of law and order in the most twisted sense. The rich make the laws and order the gendarmes to enforce their rules. For all intents and purpose-people are punished merely as a condition of birth. This is an endless cycle that is never meant to be broken, because those that should rebel are usually broke(n).