The Future of Prison Industry

January 30, 1937

Report Outline
Threat of Extinction to Prison Industry
Development of Prison Industry
Efforts to Restrict Prison Markets
Reorganization of Prison Industry

Threat of Extinction to Prison Industry

Effects of Validation of Ashurst-Sumners Act

Public interest in the Supreme Court's decision of January 4 upholding the constitutionality of the Ashurst-Sumners Act, which forbids transportation of prison-made goods into states having prohibitory laws, was largely centered on the possibility of utilizing a similar legislative device to implement state laws regulating wages, hours, and child labor in free industry, thus restoring to Congress a measure of the power denied to it by the Court when it struck down the N. R. A. in 1935. The direct significance of the decision, in spite of its great importance, escaped general notice.

Validation of the Ashurst-Sumners Act makes certain the passage of laws prohibiting the sale of prison-made goods on the open market in many of the 22 states which have not already imposed such a prohibition. A law forbidding importation of prison goods from other states and limiting the market for prison goods produced within the state to governmental agencies was enacted by the Kentucky legislature on January 16—less than two weeks after the constitutionality of the Ashurst-Sumners Act had been established by the Supreme Court. Similar laws are likely to be passed this year by the legislatures of at least nine other states.

Unemployed Free Labor vs. Prison Labor

Laws prohibiting the sale of prison goods on the open market have been supported by both employers and organized labor in an effort to eliminate unfair competition. Since limitation of the market for prison goods to governmental agencies merely reduces, and does not eliminate, competition by prison industry, the movement for abolition of such competition is likely to continue at least as long as widespread unemployment exists among free labor.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Apr. 12, 2019  Bail Reform
Oct. 19, 2018  For-Profit Prisons
Mar. 03, 2017  Women in Prison
Jan. 10, 2014  Sentencing Reform
Sep. 14, 2012  Solitary Confinement
Mar. 11, 2011  Downsizing Prisons
Dec. 04, 2009  Prisoner Reentry
Apr. 06, 2007  Prison Reform
Jan. 05, 2007  Prison Health Care
Sep. 17, 1999  Prison-Building Boom
Feb. 04, 1994  Prison Overcrowding
Oct. 20, 1989  Crime and Punishment: a Tenuous Link
Aug. 04, 1989  Can Prisons Rehabilitate Criminals?
Aug. 07, 1987  Prison Crowding
Nov. 25, 1983  Prison Overcrowding
Feb. 26, 1982  Religious Groups and Prison Reform
Jun. 18, 1976  Criminal Release System
Mar. 12, 1976  Reappraisal of Prison Policy
Oct. 20, 1971  Racial Tensions in Prisons
Oct. 13, 1965  Rehabilitation of Prisoners
Oct. 09, 1957  Prisons and Parole
May 02, 1952  Penal Reform
Jan. 30, 1937  The Future of Prison Industry
May 08, 1930  Prison Conditions and Penal Reform
Sentencing and Corrections
Unemployment and Employment Programs