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Reconsidering Southern Labor HistoryRace, Class, and Power$
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Matthew Hild and Keri Leigh Merritt

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780813056975

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813056975.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM FLORIDA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.florida.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University Press of Florida, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in FLASO for personal use.date: 17 September 2021

Origins of the Prison-Industrial Complex

Origins of the Prison-Industrial Complex

Inmate Labor in the Deep South, 1817–1865

(p.47) 3 Origins of the Prison-Industrial Complex
Reconsidering Southern Labor History

Brett J. Derbes

University Press of Florida

In chapter 3 Derbes discusses efforts during the antebellum era by southern state legislators to create financially self-sustaining penitentiaries that encouraged inmate rehabilitation through silent reflection and physical labor. The European Enlightenment’s influence on new methods of punishment and technological innovation from the Industrial Revolution contributed to the rise of prison workshops and inmate labor in the Deep South. An examination of inmate labor at the state penitentiaries of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia highlights a controversial aspect of free labor within a slave society. Convicts provided a captive, reliable, and inexpensive workforce, but their use as labor attracted criticism from local artisans and mechanics’ organizations. This competition between costly private and cheap inmate labor led to conflict that abated temporarily when demand for military supplies increased during the Civil War. The modern prison-industrial complex evolved from experimental workshops established at southern state penitentiaries nearly two centuries ago.

Keywords:   Inmate labor, prison workshops, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, prison-industrial complex

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