The Prison as Market: How Penal Labor Systems Reproduce Inequality
AdvisorSallaz, Jeffrey J.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction, presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractScholars examining the relationship between the prison and social inequality demonstrate that race, ethnicity, and class disproportionately impact imprisonment rates as well as imbalances in how different groups fare upon release. Yet, the prison itself remains a black box: inequality goes in, and inequality comes out, but little is known about the structures or practices contributing to inequity between those milestones. This dissertation addresses this gap by investigating the reproduction of inequality within prison. In particular, it investigates disparities resulting from systems of penal labor. To do so, it draws on 18 months of ethnographic fieldwork spent working alongside incarcerated laborers at a men’s state prison and 82 in-depth interviews with prisoners and facility staff. The prison is here analyzed as a competitive employment system. Adopting this lens, this dissertation makes sense of the mechanisms and pathways through which prisoners of the same custody level and housed in the same facility are nevertheless differentially classified based on the skills and resources they possess. It uncovers meso-level structures through which the imprisoned are sorted into different labor tracts, as well as the micro-level strategies that they employ to navigate and cope with this system. And it examines how labor stratification behind bars impacts prisoners’ material wellbeing and understandings of self-worth. This has direct consequences for how punishment is experienced across groups, as well as for prisoners’ preparations for release. Beyond merely confirming the relationship between criminal justice system contact and stratification, this work reveals a chain of inequality resulting in particular groups facing disproportionate imprisonment, barriers to resource acquisition during incarceration, and discriminatory treatment upon release.
Degree ProgramGraduate College