A new book by Robert Perkinson, Texas Tough: The Rise of America’s Prison Empire, traces the for profit prison system in Texas to the plantation slavery system of the south. The Austin Chronicle writes about the book:
Perkinson, an associate professor of American studies at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, has been studying Texas prisons since the late 1990s, when he wrote his doctoral dissertation on “convict leasing,” the privatized, for-profit system that replaced plantation slavery after the Civil War and survived into the 20th century.
Perkinson would say in an interview with the Austin Chronicle:
In Texas and other Southern states, those connections are more stark than in other places. Until very recently, until the Eighties, Texas’ entire prison infrastructure was centered in the same counties that were the predominant slave counties before emancipation, and the properties were all former slave plantations that were then converted to private prison plantations, until 1912, and then were taken over as state plantations. So the personnel, the daily rhythms of life, the work expectations, the disciplinary traditions were all kind of passed down from slavery to convict leasing, then to the state. To a certain extent, that fell apart with the federal litigation in the 1980s but in some ways still is with us.