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Doing Time in the DepressionEveryday Life in Texas and California Prisons$
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Ethan Blue

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780814709405

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9780814709405.001.0001

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From Can See to Can’t

From Can See to Can’t

Agricultural Labor and Industrial Reform on Texas Penal Plantations

(p.77) 3 From Can See to Can’t
Doing Time in the Depression

Ethan Blue

NYU Press

This chapter discusses labor in Texas prisons in the 1930s. Since the prison was situated on over seventy thousand acres of fertile agricultural land, labor assignments were geared toward self-sustaining agricultural production and minimizing costs. State prisons claimed increased efficiencies over the Depression decade. Although economies of scale may have played a role as the prison population increased, the more effective systemic exploitation of prisoners' labor was a more likely foundation of those savings. Farm labor needs and racial hierarchies trumped penological or rehabilitative priorities. Seasonal agricultural cycles and markets also set the pace of life and the distribution of labor in Texas prisons, with select white prisoners given privileged industrial jobs.

Keywords:   prison labor, prisoners, Texas prison system, white prisoners, agricultural production

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