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ISSN : 2586-2987(Print)
ISSN : (Online)
Korean Journal of Social Quality Vol.3 No.2 pp.1-17

Commodities and Delinquencies in the Prison Industrial Complex (PIC) in the U.S. : A Foucauldian Approach to Prison Labor

Lewis H. Lee
University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA
Corresponding Author:
Lewis H. Lee, Assistant Professor, School of Social Work, University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA.


More than 80,000 prisoners in state, federal, and private prisons work for private and for-profit industries in the United States, which is a relatively small, but rapidly growing, portion of the total number of incarcerated individuals. The main purpose of this article is to use critical concepts from Foucauldian theory to explore the relationship between incarceration and labor exploitation in the U.S. prison system. To do this, this article reviews the core Foucauldian concepts and assumptions that are relevant to explaining prison labor; applies those concepts and assumptions to the prison labor issue; and discusses a possible way for conducting an empirical study. Additionally, three implications for social work, policy intervention, and the Korean society in reference to the theory are discussed. This article suggests that understanding Foucault should be a priority to tackle forced control, unequal power, and the immobility of social and economic status embedded in the most marginalized and vulnerable populations.