Convict Leasing in Early America

Topics: Prison, American Civil War, Slavery Pages: 3 (1219 words) Published: February 12, 2008
After the Civil War ended, the abolition of slavery created a controversy in the economic motivation of the South over work force and the penal system. However, during the 1800's a new found free labor force known as convict leasing became most popular. Convict leasing allowed wealthy families who bid the highest to lease the convict and use their labor in exchange for food and clothing. The lessee could force the convict do whatever he pleased. Even though the convicts were paying the price of their crime, they were treated very inadequately and did not deserve such harsh punishment in some circumstances. As long as the South accepted that convicts deserved to maintain this level of work just as slaves did, they would never be able to fully move away from the concept of slavery. In other words, convict leasing was just a front for slavery creating a way to undermine the new slave laws of the postbellum period and allowing the South an economic break. In fact, remnants of the convict leasing system are even seen to this day and in the same way allow states to conserve money. From the beginning of our country's time there have always been misbehaving people who must pay the consequences for their actions. As the United States evolved many systems of punishment were used. Leading up to the Civil War, the penal system was not very sufficient but with the abolition of slavery the system became strict and developed a way to use prisoners as a labor force. The government allowed for the leasing of convicts to people who would provide for the survival of the prisoner and in return could use the prisoner as a servant. He would do all the duties just as a slave would but now had a just reason behind his work. In the early 1900's, post Civil War, the South wanted to make an adjustment in their economic position so that it was greater and more respectable compared to the North. While also maintaining their agrarian status, they were able to do so through convict leasing....
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