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Revisiting the Democratic Promise of Prisoners’ Labor Unions

Crime and Punishment: Perspectives from the Humanities

ISBN: 978-0-76231-245-0, eISBN: 978-1-84950-369-3

ISSN: 1059-4337

Publication date: 15 December 2005


Despite the volumes that have been written on America's correctional crisis – the peerless incarceration rate, disproportionate confinement of minority group members and democratically untenable policies of disenfranchisement of people with felony convictions – criminal justice policy has changed little within the past decade or more. An important voice has been left out of these correctional policy formulations – that of prisoners. This paper proposes convict labor unions as one way to address this issue. It utilizes the United States Supreme Court majority's arguments in Jones v. North Carolina to assess the feasibility of inmate labor unions in light of current federal, state and local institutional operations; and provides a very tentative outline of how a prisoners’ labor union could be structured and function – exploring the potential democratic ramifications of such unions for corrections and in broader social policy.


Blankenship, S. (2005), "Revisiting the Democratic Promise of Prisoners’ Labor Unions", Sarat, A. (Ed.) Crime and Punishment: Perspectives from the Humanities (Studies in Law, Politics, and Society, Vol. 37), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 241-269.



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