Erik Dill

Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Douglas Davidson

Second Advisor

Dr. Thomas Van Valey

Third Advisor

Dr. Thomas Van Valey

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


Prison industry has a sporadic history in the United States. Interstate trade of prison made goods was banned from 1940 until 1979; business and labor opposed slavelike competition from early programs. This thesis studies competitive prisoner work, deemed prison industry, as different from state-use labor.

Formal theory on prison industry is inadequate. Rusche would suggest that unemployment directly effects incarceration, and prison industry develops to provide labor in economic upswings. Since 1980 prison industry expanded and unemployment fell, but incarceration did not decline. Therefore, this study focuses on theory genesis. Explanations for incarceration can assume prison is exploitative. Legal history suggests labor strength and incarceration policy might predict prison industry.

This study uses state level rates to predict survey data measuring the nature and extent of prison industry. Multiple regression found a significant relationship between incarceration and the prison industry rate. Logistic regression tied employment to the existence of prison industry and job training. Theory must find more links to conditions promoting prison industry.

Included in

Criminology Commons