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The Carceral State at Work: Exclusion, Coercion, and Subordination, in Criminality at Work


This chapter presents a very striking configuration of the relationship between the criminal law and the world of work: in the United States, custodial punishment for criminal offences, bearing especially heavily upon the population of colour, is so extensive as to identify that country as a ‘carceral state’; and it is one in which this enormous resort to imprisonment has seemingly contradictory repressive effects upon the workforce. On the one hand, it excludes many people from the labour market through pervasive discrimination against those with a criminal record. But on the other hand, it coerces many people into work; several institutions require people not currently imprisoned to work or face incarceration as a sanction. The contradiction may be resolved by considering the quality of work at issue, as exclusion from better jobs is complemented by coercion into worse ones: ‘subordinated inclusion’. This transformative effect of criminalization alters one’s basic understanding of how labour law regulates personal work relations.

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