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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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(p.241) Epilogue
Doing Time in the Depression

Ethan Blue

NYU Press

This chapter discusses the impact of World War II on Texas and California prisons. In California, its massively overcrowded institutions grew quieter as prisoners ensnared by the Depression were paroled or finished their sentences, and as numbers of new inmates decreased. Good jobs in war industries and the demand for soldiers across the armed forces drained the pool of potential inmates. Not only were there fewer state prisoners during World War II, but labor assignments diversified. Work proved to be a key source of prisoners' identification as patriotic Americans. In Texas, wartime prison populations fell as they did in California. But by every account, conditions in Texas prisons changed for the worse. Perhaps this occurred because the prison's agricultural production had expanded so greatly during the Depression that the prison system itself, like the economy of the previous decade, had reached a crisis of overproduction. There were too few inmates to make the farms run, too few inmates to be contained efficiently, too few laborers for the prison to operate as smoothly as it once had. The remainder of the chapter covers the postwar Texas and California prison systems.

Keywords:   World War II, Texas prisons, California prisons, postwar prisons, prison systems

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