Prison farm

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A prison farm is a large correctional facility where penal labor convicts are put to economical use in a farm (in the wide sense of a productive unit), usually for manual labor, largely in open air, such as in agriculture, logging, quarrying, and mining. The concepts of prison farm and labor camp overlap. The historical equivalent on a very large scale was called a penal colony.[1]

The agricultural goods produced by prison farms are generally used primarily to feed the prisoners themselves and other wards of the state (residents of orphanages, asylums, etc.), and secondarily, to be sold for whatever profit the state may be able to obtain.[2]

In addition to being forced to labor directly for the government on a prison farm or in a penal colony, inmates may be forced to do farm work for private enterprises by being farmed out through the practice of convict leasing to work on private agricultural lands or related industries (fishing, lumbering, etc.). The party purchasing their labor from the government generally does so at a steep discount from the cost of free labor.[1]

Depending on the prevailing doctrine on judicial punishment and penal harm, psychological and/or physical cruelty may be a conscious intent of prison farm labor, and not just an inevitable but unintended collateral effect.

Other prison industries

Convicts may also be leased for non-agricultural work, either directly to state entities, or to private industry. For example, prisoners may make license plates under contract to the state Department of Motor Vehicles, work in textile or other state run factories, or may perform data processing for outside firms. These laborers are typically considered to be a part of prison industries and not prison farms.

In the United States (partial list)

State Facility Type of work
Alabama Draper Correctional Facility Farming [3]
Alabama G.K. Fountain Correctional Facility Cattle and Agricultural Operations, and Vegetable Gardens [4]
Alabama Limestone Correctional Facility Cattle and Farming [5]
Alaska Point MacKenzie Correctional Farm Hogs, Cattle, Turkeys, and Chickens, Produce Operations, and Hydroponics Program [6]
Arkansas Cummins Unit Horse and Agricultural Operations [7]
Arkansas East Arkansas Regional Unit Farming [8]
Arkansas Grimes Unit Agricultural Gardening Program [9]
Arkansas North Central Unit Garden and Forage Production [10]
Arkansas Ouachita River Unit Livestock and Forage Production, Gravel Harvesting [11]
Arkansas Pine Bluff Unit Horse operation [12]
Arkansas Tucker Unit Agricultural Operations [13]
Arkansas Wrightsville Unit Horse Operations, Agricultural Operations [14]
California California State Prison, Corcoran Dairy/Milk Processing [15]
California Central California Women's Facility Farming [16]
California Valley State Prison Farming [17]
California Wasco State Prison Farming [18]
Colorado Buena Vista Correctional Complex Fish Hatchery [19]
Colorado Four Mile Correctional Center Dairy, Wild Horse Inmate Program [20]
Colorado Rifle Correctional Center Timber [21]
Colorado Skyline Correctional Center Fish Hatchery, Farming, Vineyard, Goat and Water Buffalo Dairy, Mountain Sheep [22]
Florida Apalachee Correctional Institution, West Unit / P.R.I.D.E. Beef Cattle, Lumber, Agricultural [23]
Florida Charlotte Correctional Institution / P.R.I.D.E. Citrus [24]
Florida Union Correctional Institution / P.R.I.D.E. Beef Cattle, Lumber [25]
Georgia Arrendale State Prison Cattle and Swine, Hay Farming [26]
Georgia Dooly State Prison Farm Services [27]
Georgia Montgomery State Prison Poultry and Egg Production [28]
Georgia Rogers State Prison Dairy, Beef Cattle, Swine, Farming [29]
Georgia Washington State Prison Farming [30]
Hawaii Halawa Correctional Facility / Hawaii Correctional Industries Farming [31]
Hawaii Waiawa Correctional Facility Farming [32]

Legal framework

The 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which ended slavery, specifically perpetuated the concept of penal servitude – i.e., unfree labor as a punishment for a crime.

Britain had a long history of penal servitude even prior to the passage of the Penal Servitude Act of 1853, and routinely used convict labor to settle its conquests, either through penal colonies or by selling convicts to settlers to serve as slaves for a term of years as indentured servants.


The Clemens Unit, a prison farm in Brazoria County, Texas
The Cummins Unit, a prison farm in Lincoln County, Arkansas

This type of penal institution has mainly been implanted in rural regions of vast countries

"The state prison is at Raleigh, although most of the convicts are distributed upon farms owned and operated by the state. The lease system does not prevail, but the farming out of convict labor is permitted by the constitution; such labor is used chiefly for the building of railways, the convicts so employed being at all times cared for and guarded by state officials. A reformatory for white youth between the ages of seven and sixteen, under the name of the Stonewall Jackson Manual Training and Industrial School, was opened at Concord in 1909, and in March 1909 the Foulk Reformatory and Manual Training School for negro youth was provided for. Charitable and penal institutions are under the supervision of a Board of Public Charities, appointed by the governor for a period of six years, the terms of the different members expiring in different years. Private institutions for the care of the insane, idiots, feeble-minded and inebriates may be established, but must be licensed and regulated by the state board and become legally a part of the system of public charities."

In 21st-century Illinois, several prisons continue to run farms to produce food for wards of the state, including the prisoners themselves. The 1911 Britannica also reported that the state of Rhode Island had a farm of 667 acres (2.70 km2) in the southern part of Cranston City housing (and presumably taking labor from):

"the state prison, the Providence county jail, the state workhouse and the house of correction, the state almshouse, the state hospital for the insane, the Sockanosset school for boys, and the Oaklawn school for girls, the last two being departments of the state reform school."

There are prison farms in other countries. Canada has six prison farms, where 300 inmates do everything from tending pigs to milking cows.

In fiction

Films featuring prison farms and forced prison labor:

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 "D.A. McCall, Secretary of the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board, Baptizes Convicts on a Prison Farm near Parchman on 18 August 1946". Crime and Punishment: Essential Primary Sources , 2006.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Lunau, Kate. "Canada to shut down all prison farms". Maclean's, April 13, 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Draper Correctional Facility. (2013). Retrieved June 9, 2015
  4. Fountain Correctional Facility. (2013). Retrieved June 9, 2015
  5. Limestone Correctional Facility. (2013). Retrieved June 9, 2015
  6. Point Mackenzie Correctional Farm History. (n.d.). Retrieved June 9, 2015
  7. Cummins Unit. (2011). Retrieved June 9,2015
  8. East Arkansas Regional Unit. (2011). Retrieved June 9,2015
  9. Grimes Unit. (2011). Retrieved June 9,2015
  10. North Central Unit. (2011). Retrieved June 9,2015
  11. Ouachita River Unit. (2011). Retrieved June 9,2015
  12. Pine Bluff Unit. (2011). Retrieved June 9,2015
  13. Tucker Unit. (2011). Retrieved June 9,2015
  14. Wrightsville Unit. (2011). Retrieved June 9,2015
  15. California State Prison, Corcoran (CSP-COR). (2014). Retrieved June 9, 2015
  16. Central California Women's Facility (CCWF). (2014). Retrieved June 9, 2015
  17. Valley State Prison (VSP). (2014). Retrieved June 9, 2015
  18. Wasco State Prison-Reception Center (WSP). (2014). Retrieved June 9, 2015
  19. BVCC - Buena Vista Correctional Complex | Department of Corrections. (n.d.). Retrieved June 9, 2015
  20. FMCC - Four Mile Correctional Center | Department of Corrections. (n.d.). Retrieved June 9, 2015
  21. RCC - Rifle Correctional Center | Department of Corrections. (n.d.). Retrieved June 9, 2015
  22. SCC - Skyline Correctional Center | Department of Corrections. (n.d.). Retrieved June 9, 2015
  23. Apalachee Correctional Institution, West. (n.d.). Retrieved June 9, 2015
  24. Charlotte Correctional Institution. (n.d.). retrieved June 9, 2015
  25. Union Correctional Institution. (n.d.). retrieved June 9, 2015
  26. Arrendale State Prison. (n.d.). retrieved June 9, 2015
  27. Dooly State Prison. (n.d.). retrieved June 9, 2015
  28. Montgomery State Prison. (n.d.). retrieved June 9, 2015
  29. Rogers State Prison. (n.d.). retrieved June 9, 2015
  30. Washington State Prison. (n.d.). retrieved June 9, 2015
  31. Halawa Correctional Facility. (2015). retrieved June 9, 2015
  32. Waiawa Correctional Facility. (2015). retrieved June 9, 2015
  33. Chain Gang (1950) Turner Classic Movies
  • Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. Missing or empty |title= (help)CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

External links