Developing a Theory of Exploitation in the Context of Penal Labor in the Federal Prison Industries
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractDiscussions of non-Marxist theories of exploitation over the past few decades have opened up debates on the nature of exploitative interactions. The substance of these discussions vary widely in how they define exploitation and, if they find it problematic, vary in how best to understand and ameliorate the moral problems associated with exploitation. Enter into this debate an age-old public policy, penal labor. Every day in the United State federal prison system, thousands of inmates go to work through Federal Prison Industries, a program created by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1934. These inmates, who by federal law are required to work if given the opportunity, earn sub-minimum wages with a maximum hourly wage of $1.15 and many earn as little as $0.23 an hour. In light of the historical and modern debate over the exploitation of workers, this paper will seek to answer how the Federal Prison Industries operates and justifies sub-minimal wages, discuss the current philosophical debate regarding exploitation, and conclude by asserting that the current system of penal labor in federal prisons in the United State is not exploitative due to the benefits given to the inmates.
Degree ProgramHonors College
Philosophy, Politics, Economics and Law