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Prison Farms

In Map 7 of Unfathomable City, it shows the locations of the Louisiana State prisons. On the following pages it shows images of incarcerated persons across the top of the pages. One of the names of the prison farms, in particular, caught my attention. The East Carroll Parish Prison Farm. I remembered a conversation I had had with a friend a few months prior that she became very heated about and was educating me how incarcerated persons were exploited for their labor, and that it was a whole multibillion-dollar industry in America. Unfathomable City outlines how in New Orleans from the 80’s on had “increased life sentences”  “New Orleanians getting locked up far longer” and “the rise of mass incarceration.” A piece by NBC News titled “Locked in Profits” informed me that “Private correctional facilities were a $4.8 billion industry last year.” A staggering number in and of itself.

Caged Bird magazine says “While one of the department’s stated goals is to reduce operational costs by having prisoners produce their own food, the prison system admittedly earns revenue from “sales of surplus agricultural production.” And that those who “opt” to work “Often they come out more indebted than when they went in.”

Nothing about that seems right, logical, or in the best interest of the people. This goes back to our course concept of a desire for containment. I know the US already has a much larger gap between the the amount of people incarcerated than other nations, but with the prison being an “industry” it becomes clear that America has decided to contain people and exploit them for profit. By prisons forcing these incarcerated people to perform the act of labor they are capitalizing on their “workers” and turning these people into a number defined in the number of dollar bills they produce.

Roach discusses this in the words of his circular narrative calling it “the churn.” People are forced to remain in prison, they fall behind on their debts/ fines, the finish their sentences in prison, they come out and are immediately behind on their fines so they are sent back to prison again. They fall into this vicious cycle. The system at work is flawed and is putting people in the category of expendable and of waste rather than prioritizing them as people who are individuals with rights. It is a failure to the people as citizens above all.

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