Perceptions and meanings of carceral work in the United States (1919-2003)
Résumé du projet de thèse :
In the late-1970s, the United States entered what is now referred to as the era of mass incarceration, characterized by a punitive turn toward longer sentences, tough-on-crime political discourse, and the disproportionate criminalization of African American men. Meanwhile, the rise of private prisons and the legalization of private companies’ use of incarcerated people’s labor have sparked fears about the creation of a “prison industrial complex,” along with accusations of forced labor. The re-opening of penal institutions to the private sector has been seen as a turning point, after decades of strict regulation of prison labor. Indeed, starting in the late 1920s, a number of laws had gradually turned prison labor into a monopoly of the public sector. However, this restriction did not mean that prison labor had disappeared. On the contrary, putting incarcerated people to work was technically necessary to keep institutions going; it was also constantly promoted by penal administrators and reformers, even though it had become much less profitable. In this dissertation, I try to explain how carceral work was justified and contested in the course of the twentieth century, from the regulation drive of the 1920s to the deregulation movement of the neoliberal era.