Labor is not only salutary because it is the opposite of idleness; but it is also contemplated that the convict, while he is not at work, shall learn business which would support him when he leaves the prison. The prisoners therefore are taught useful trades only; and among these, care is taken to choose such as which are the most profitable ones, and the product of which finds the easiest sale. This extract reveals the position adopted by Gustave de Beaumont and Alexis de Tocqueville about prison labour in 1833. The authors focus on the positive role of prison labor which, according to them, demonstrates its appropriateness.
Prison labor has existed for a long time, although the roles attributed to it have evolved. Initially it was mainly used as a punitive and deterrent tool, forcing prisoners to work in terrible conditions which made prison labour similar to slavery. We shall give the example of some greatest abuses occurring in South American prisons in the 19th and 20th centuries, with private entrepreneurs having prisoners work unmercifully, sometimes it can lead even to death . Such brutal labor systems have disappeared after WWII, although unacceptable abuses related to prison labor are still remaining today. We shall draw a line between two kinds of prison labor: one which aims at ensuring the maintenance and functioning of the prison facilities and the other which only has productive and profit-making ends. These two forms of prison labor serve different objectives
[...] Jacob, prison labour: a tale of two penologies”, Yvonne Jewkes and Helen Johnston , Prison readings , A critical introduction to prisons and imprisonment James B. Jacob, prison labour: a tale of two penologies”, Yvonne Jewkes and Helen Johnston , Prison readings , A critical introduction to prisons and imprisonment John Lewis Gillin, Criminology and Penology, (3rd ed, Greenwood Pub Group, 1972) Ibid Ferenc Nagy, in Dirk Van Zyl Smit and Frieder Dunkel, Prison labour: Salvation or Slavery? International Perspectives, (Oñati International Series in Law and Society, 1999) Prisons : les conditions de détention en Franr Dünkel, Prison labour: Salvation or Slavery? [...]
[...] On the other hand, prison labour can turn into a productive activity. It could enable the penal institution to earn money by selling to goods produced by the prisoners and it could contribute to the economic support of the prison. Then, this would benefit the State which could reduce the amount of its budget allocated to prisons. This issue is particularly important because the cost of prison is at the heart of many debates. In Ireland, the average cost per prisoner per annum is 77 000€. [...]
[...] Prisoners are citizens, thus their rights must be protected and their human dignity respected. We have good grounds for thinking that having human rights respected throughout the world's prisons is a complex issue. It is difficult to find incentives for countries to do so. In order to solve this problem, some authors have argued the use of an economic incentive by stating that “trade in product made in prison should be forbidden if the conditions of work, the wages and the social security of prisoners in custody do not meet certain minimum standards”. [...]
[...] Nevertheless, we have good grounds for fearing that the educational objective may be altered by the production objective. Then, as previously mentioned, prison labour has to be specialised to efficiently fulfil the rehabilitation purpose. However, the training function of prison labour is defeated by the frequent concentration of prison industries on a single or a few industries, which does not able to offer a sufficient diversity of jobs to prisoners. Generally, prison labour does not really enable the improvement of prisoners' vocational skills because the jobs offered by the prison industry are usually simple and uninteresting. [...]
[...] Firstly, prison labour has been considered as a punitive and deterrent means. These objectives serve the interests of the society because it aims at expressing the society's disapproval of prisoners' offences through punishment and protecting society from future offences through deterrence. In order to fulfil these roles, prison labour must be compulsory. Despite the abolition of forced labour at an international level, forced labour in prison still exists in many countries, for example in China. Thus, we shall contemplate these roles that are likely to be attributed to prison labour when it deals with forced prison labour. [...]
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