Friday, May 21, 2004

First Writing

This is a new blog for me. I practiced criminal law for over ten years, and now teach it at the college level. I have taught in the prisons and have developed and maintained friendships with inmates.

I first became interested in this topic as I taught the chronology of the prison workhouses in England, circa 1544, then into the United States in the 1800s, and culminating in its federal legislative death in 1935.

That was an interesting lesson in history and, since my undergrad was in Economics, I was not shocked at all to see the manipulation of the labor market end disastrously.

Then in 1979, with the Justice System Improvement Act, the 1935 legislation was rendered ineffective. We are now fully into the workhouse environment of centuries ago.

So I have begun my research, and it is very much in its infant stages. It is my intent, however, to make this important issue the subject of my dissertation. I intend for this web site to track my research and present it for comment to you as I progress.

I have been initially disappointed in my research, which is to relate that the level of scholarly research into the issue seems to be thin at best. Some prisons are paying 19 cents an hour to inmates, working them without breaks, subjecting them to constant verbal abuse, and in general treating them as slaves who should be thankful for the opportunity to work. How can this be without serious study? Articles appear here and there, but nothing in depth. A textbook I recently read that devoted six pages to the topic cited articles and prison yearbooks as its source. That is not a condemnation of the author, but a commentary on the resources available to him. The websites I have found have been authored by (understandably) angry prisoners or family, but generally lack any real pedagogical value.

I do not intend to take sides in this research. I wish to gather all relevant information and present it for your consideration.

If you have any articles, websites, or other information that you wish to inform me of or, as appropriate, use this blog to inform others, please e me at

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