Prison labor: an assessment of its role and appropriateness
- The question of expediency of prison labour from the prisoner's point of view
- The controversial use of prison labour for the personal welfare of the prisoner
- 2) Prison labour: an efficient tool for rehabilitation?
- Advantages and risks that prison labour may represent for the penal institution and more broadly the State and the society
- Discussion on the role of prison labour relating to the penal institution and the society.
- The economic objective of prison labour at issue
“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
[...] The modern approach to prison labour highlights its essential role to “furnish prisoners with skills, knowledge and work experience, intended to improve their ability to find employment after release and thereby increase their prospects of reintegration into society”. The prisoners’ rehabilitation is now recognized as an objective of prison labour in many countries. We may give the example of Section 15 of the Israeli Prison Regulation 1978 which provides that “prisoners work should be directed as far as possible to their rehabilitation”. [...]
[...] Thus, we shall first focus on the role and appropriateness of prison labour from the prisoners’ point of view and then contemplate the question from other actors’ perspective. I. The question of expediency of prison labour from the prisoner’s point of view. The controversial use of prison labour for the personal welfare of the prisoner. Prison labour plays many different roles which are directly connected to the prisoners’ personal welfare. Even though it may be argued that work in prison is essential from the inmates’ point of view, we shall highlight the existence of abuses and negative effects resulting from it. [...]
[...] On the one hand, prison labour may be used by prison for the maintenance of its facilities. Prisoners would be in charge of different tasks which are necessary for the daily life of the prison community: cleaning, cooking, making the laundry, distributing meals to the inmates . The carrying out of these chores is essential to keep the prison functioning. However, these jobs are neither interesting nor challenging. In this context, prison labour may have some advantages as described previously but rarely contribute to provide prisoners with skills. [...]
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