Prison labor was once ‘forced’

prison-laborTwo years later the law was amended to reflect the generally accepted theory that a prison should be made to pay its own way. The warden was given the power to hire out the labor of the convicts. In 1846, another innovation was tried – that of leasing the operation of the penitentiary to a private contractor, including the regulation of their labor. This experiment apparently did not fulfill the expectations of the government, for when the lease expired it was not renewed.

Seven years later a contract system of prison labor was inaugurated where all the able bodied convicts were employed by a private firm in the manufacturing of wagons, buggies, harness trees and mechanical and agricultural implements. Convicts were to be fed, clothed and disciplined by state officials at public expense, but to work in shops provided within the walls for the contractors. The state would receive 30 cents per day for each convict’s labor.


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