Prison Labor in the United States
An Economic Analysis
By Asatar Bair
Published April 10th 2012 by Routledge – 216 pages
Series: New Political Economy
This book is the only comprehensive analysis of contemporary prison labor in the United States. In it, the author makes the provocative claim that prison labor is best understood as a form of slavery, in which the labor-power of each inmate (though not their person) is owned by the Department of Corrections, and this enslavement is used to extract surplus labor from the inmates, for which no compensation is provided. Other authors have claimed that prison labor is slavery, but no previous study has made a rigorous argument based on a systematic analysis of the flows of surplus labor which take place in the various ways prison slavery is organized in the US prison system, nor has another study systematically examined ‘prison household’ production, in which inmates produce the goods and services necessary to run the prison, nor does another work discuss state welfare in prisons, and how this affects prison labor. The study is based on empirical findings gathered by the author’s direct observation of prison factories in 28 prisons across the country. This book offers new insights into the practice of prison labor, and should be read by all serious students of American society.
Introduction: Prisons and American Society 1. Slavery 2. Conditions of Existence of Slavery in U.S. Prisons 3. State Welfare and the Production of the Prison Household 4. The Production of Commodities in Prison 5. The History of Prison Slavery in the U.S. 6. Consequences of Prison Slavery
Asatar Bair is a professor of economics and statistics at the City College of San Francisco. His research interests include the economics of crime and punishment, class theory, monetary economics, international trade, and economic philosophy and methodology. He is interested in the intersection between economics and self-realization; he serves as a teacher for the Institute for Applied Meditation.