In Pursuit of Reform, Whether Convict or Free: Prison Labor Reform in Maryland in the Early Twentieth Century
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Highlighting the labor actions of inmates and organized labor, this thesis explains the transition from a contract labor system to a state-use system in Maryland’s state prisons. While many northern states abolished the contract labor system by 1911, Maryland continued contract labor into the 1930s. Efforts of prison administrators to maintain discipline and fund prison operating costs despite the labor actions of inmates and working men and women reveal the close relationship of prison labor and revenue generation. By situating prison labor within the broader history of the labor movement in Baltimore, this thesis reveals how the Maryland prison system transitioned from a backwater of Progressive Era reform to a model of New Deal ideology. Its examination of prison profits lends insight into the post-1960s rise in mass incarceration, and is vital to the project of understanding the connections between the criminal state, corporate profit, and incarcerated populations.