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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 164055 Find in a Library
Title: Inmate Labor: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
Journal: Corrections Today  Volume:58  Issue:1  Dated:(February 1996)  Pages:28,30,77
Author(s): G S Ingley
Date Published: 1996
Page Count: 3
Type: Historical Overview
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This article reviews the history of inmate labor in the United States.
Abstract: In Colonial days, inmate labor was brutal and inhumane, but during the Revolutionary War, a prison reform movement swept Britain and its former colonies. Humane conditions were introduced, and individual criminals were isolated in the hope they would become "penitent." Prison space was always scarce in the United States, but never more so than after the Civil War devastated much of the South. Convicts worked on "chain gangs" building canals and railroads in conditions tantamount to slavery. In the 19th century, many States permitted State and Federal inmates to be contracted out to farmers and businessmen, who exploited their labor. Congress outlawed the practice in 1997, prompting a feud with States that refused to house Federal inmates. By 1860, more than 20 States had implemented correctional industries that were managed by corrections officials. Private-sector companies arrived on the scene at the beginning of the 20th century as partners in the sales and profits of inmate-made goods; however, bowing to pressure from labor and business interests, the States later began restricting the sale of such goods to State and local governments. From 1929 to 1940 Congress passed several laws that eventually banned the shipment in interstate commerce of prison-made good. The result was a significant drop in correctional industries' employment levels. A renewed interest in the value of inmate labor for rehabilitation has spurred new interest in correctional industries. By October 1995, 17 bills had been introduced in the U.S. Congress that could have an impact on inmate labor. They address issues such as mandated physical labor by inmates tied to eligibility to receive Federal prison grant funds; exemptions from Fair Labor Standards practices and other Federal laws for inmate labor and inmate-made goods; a repeal of the Federal Walsh-Healey Act; and authorization for Federal inmates to perform community service work. Congress is likely to act on Federal inmate work initiatives in 1996.
Main Term(s): Correctional industries
Index Term(s): History of corrections; Vocational training
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