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Keywords: Organizing the Convicted Class: The Historical Struggle to Reclassify Penal Labor on the Eve of Mass Incarceration, 1967–1979 (ALL of these words -- matching substrings)

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FT-291244-23Research Programs: Summer StipendsMichael Gibson-LightOrganizing the Convicted Class: The Historical Struggle to Reclassify Penal Labor on the Eve of Mass Incarceration, 1967–19797/1/2023 - 8/31/2023$6,000.00Michael Gibson-Light   Colorado SeminaryDenverCO80210-4711USA2023SociologySummer StipendsResearch Programs6000060000

Research leading to a monograph on the history of the Prisoners Union, the largest union ever to represent the incarcerated population in the United States.

In the 1970s, American prisoners embarked on a historic push to unionize penal labor and reclassify their work as formal employment with all of the rights and protections that this entails. This expansive movement engaged in struggles with prison administrators, staff, and political actors. Yet, as their influence grew, so did the opposition they faced. By the end of the decade, a series of defeats at negotiation tables and in the courts withered prisoners’ ability to assemble against poor conditions and treatment. This set the stage for numerous punitive policy developments to come, including the rise of mass incarceration and the expansion of prison labor systems. Drawing on unique historical data from key prisoner organizations in this era, this project investigates the understudied yet instrumental history of this movement to reframe the nation’s captive workforce as not only protected workers but, indeed, as people in the eyes of prison officials, the courts, and the public.