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June 28, 2017

"Cashing in on Convicts: Privatization, Punishment, and the People"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new paper by Laura Appleman available via SSRN. Here is the abstract:

For-profit prisons, jails, and alternative corrections present a disturbing commodification of the criminal justice system. Though part of a modern trend, privatized corrections has well-established roots traceable to slavery, Jim Crow, and current racially-based inequities.  This monetizing of the physical incarceration and regulation of human bodies has had deleterious effects on offenders, communities, and the proper functioning of punishment in our society.  Criminal justice privatization severs an essential link between the people and criminal punishment.  When we remove the imposition of punishment from the people and delegate it to private actors, we sacrifice the core criminal justice values of expressive, restorative retribution, the voice and interests of the community, and systemic transparency and accountability.

This Article shows what we lose when we allow private, for-profit entities to take on the traditional community function of imposing and regulating punishment.  By banking on bondage, private prisons and jails remove the local community from criminal justice, and perpetuate the extreme inequities within the criminal system. 

June 28, 2017 at 10:56 AM | Permalink

Comments

Tennessee coal minors had the right idea during the early 1890's when they rose up violently against Tennessee's then-convict leasing system which had leased convicts, mainly black men and women, to work in coal mines owned by the Tennessee Coal and Iron Company. When it sank into free-world coal miners that convict-leasing would jeopardize their livelihoods by replacing free-world labor with de facto slave labor, they rose up in revolt in an approximately two year struggle to force Tennessee to end the use of leasing out convicts to coal mines.

Make no mistake, this uprising was due less to humanitarian concerns about convicts' well-being than due to the economic threat posed by convict-leasing to free laborers. This uprising is sometimes known as the Coal Creek Rebellion or the Convict Wars. It was one of the few successful labor uprisings during the early 1890's, an otherwise bleak decade for organized labor when other strikes like Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania's, Homestead Strike went down in utter defeat.

Getting back to the Tennessee coal miner's rebellion, the miners not only broke into the coal mines to forcibly free the prisoners and attack some of the guards, but they even recruited some of the prisoners to aid the strike. Prisoners would engage in subtle sabotage like using coal-colored paint to cover white rocks to look like coal, put them in the bins, and send them to the coal foundries where the painted rock would wreck the Tennessee Coal and Iron Company's stokers, thus causing very expensive damage to the plant.

The Tennessee governor called out the state National Guard. But this backfired as many National Guard members had friends and loved ones who made up the striking miners. Many of these Guard members fraternized with the strikers. Even getting a Grand Jury to hand down indictments against the strikers proved a failure as most jurors used a little-used instrument to nullify any convictions before the trials could even start. This lead to a Supreme Court decision that made it much harder for future jurors to nullify a conviction or indictment.

The aftermath of the strike forced Tennessee to replace all convict-leasing with a new labor program that required the state prison system itself instead of private companies to oversee all convict labor. Labor conditions would still be inhumane, but less so than they were under the lease system.

The coal company, which kept the name of Tennessee Coal and Iron Company, was now a misnomer as it would only operate in Alabama and Georgia after the Tennessee strike shut down its Tennessee operations.

It will take major revolts by both organized labor and convicts themselves to put a stop to privatization and leasing.

Posted by: william r. delzell | Jun 28, 2017 11:46:51 AM

Tennessee coal minors had the right idea during the early 1890's when they rose up violently against Tennessee's then-convict leasing system which had leased convicts, mainly black men and women, to work in coal mines owned by the Tennessee Coal and Iron Company. When it sank into free-world coal miners that convict-leasing would jeopardize their livelihoods by replacing free-world labor with de facto slave labor, they rose up in revolt in an approximately two year struggle to force Tennessee to end the use of leasing out convicts to coal mines.

Make no mistake, this uprising was due less to humanitarian concerns about convicts' well-being than due to the economic threat posed by convict-leasing to free laborers. This uprising is sometimes known as the Coal Creek Rebellion or the Convict Wars. It was one of the few successful labor uprisings during the early 1890's, an otherwise bleak decade for organized labor when other strikes like Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania's, Homestead Strike went down in utter defeat.

Getting back to the Tennessee coal miner's rebellion, the miners not only broke into the coal mines to forcibly free the prisoners and attack some of the guards, but they even recruited some of the prisoners to aid the strike. Prisoners would engage in subtle sabotage like using coal-colored paint to cover white rocks to look like coal, put them in the bins, and send them to the coal foundries where the painted rock would wreck the Tennessee Coal and Iron Company's stokers, thus causing very expensive damage to the plant.

The Tennessee governor called out the state National Guard. But this backfired as many National Guard members had friends and loved ones who made up the striking miners. Many of these Guard members fraternized with the strikers. Even getting a Grand Jury to hand down indictments against the strikers proved a failure as most jurors used a little-used instrument to nullify any convictions before the trials could even start. This lead to a Supreme Court decision that made it much harder for future jurors to nullify a conviction or indictment.

The aftermath of the strike forced Tennessee to replace all convict-leasing with a new labor program that required the state prison system itself instead of private companies to oversee all convict labor. Labor conditions would still be inhumane, but less so than they were under the lease system.

The coal company, which kept the name of Tennessee Coal and Iron Company, was now a misnomer as it would only operate in Alabama and Georgia after the Tennessee strike shut down its Tennessee operations.

It will take major revolts by both organized labor and convicts themselves to put a stop to privatization and leasing.

Posted by: william r. delzell | Jun 28, 2017 11:46:53 AM

I just came here to ask why in the hell was "Banking on Bondage" NOT the cutesy title of this law review article? That is a missed opportunity if ever there was one.

Posted by: Guy | Jun 28, 2017 12:18:32 PM

And another thought: Why does a District Attorney put all inmates on Probation? Is it because he says that he can yank them back into the system whenever? Is it for Income to the County? To become Judge? Make it impossible to hold a job because of the constant interference of reporting? These are Public Employees that are against the Public, it is not a correctional institute - it is all about the money!

Posted by: LC in Texas | Jun 29, 2017 12:21:48 PM

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