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Death and Other PenaltiesPhilosophy in a Time of Mass Incarceration$
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Geoffrey Adelsberg, Lisa Guenther, and Scott Zeman

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780823265299

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: September 2015

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823265299.001.0001

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Excavating the Sedimentations of Slavery

Excavating the Sedimentations of Slavery

The Unfinished Project of American Abolition

Chapter:
(p.13) Excavating the Sedimentations of Slavery
Source:
Death and Other Penalties
Author(s):

Brady Heiner

Publisher:
Fordham University Press
DOI:10.5422/fordham/9780823265299.003.0001

This chapter traces the desk in the author's office at California State University back to its production in California's Prison Industry Authority—a carceral manufacturing system that, at a rate of thirty to ninety-five cents per hour, employs a segment of the state's imprisoned population to provide goods and services to state agencies that the latter are legislatively mandated to purchase. It analyzes this hidden background of carceral production in terms of the prison industrial complex, the convict lease system, and other Reconstruction-era legal rituals that refashioned American prisons into receptacles that grant sanctuary to racialized forms of punishment prevalent during slavery. It advances a concept of semiotic transfer to explain how the institution of the prison became a functional substitute for the plantation, and how the discourse of “criminality” became racialized. It argues that the antebellum positionality of the “slave” and the postbellum positionality of the “criminal” came to be semiotically and associatively paired and are thus genealogically linked through postbellum legal rituals and everyday practices. The chapter concludes by outlining a two-sided account of abolition involving intertwining movements aimed at mass decarceration and socioeconomic and political reconstruction.

Keywords:   California's Prison Industry Authority, prisoners, carceral production, prison industrial complex, convict lease system, racialized punishment, slavery, mass decarceration

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