The The Convict
The Tennessee Coal, Iron and Railroad Company (TCI) one of the original 12 companies listed in the Dow Jones Industrial Index, was one of the largest users of prison laborers, mostly comprised of African Americans convicted of petty crimes. The number of convicts employed increased after United States Steel, the largest corporation in the world at the time (formerly known as U.S. Steel and USX), acquired TCI in 1907. The working and living conditions for these prisoners were brutal, as companies leasing convicts sought to house, clothe and feed them for minimal expense, with little interest in their survival. Justice-involved individuals were housed in rough board shanties unfit for the habitation of human beings. Torture and beatings were common, and countless individuals perished from abuse; poor and dangerous working conditions; communicable diseases, such as tuberculosis, malaria, and pneumonia; and from environmental conditions like contaminated water.
The The Convict
Convict Lake and Creek are so named as the result of an AMBUSH encounter here September 17, 1871, when a group of inmates escaped from prison in Carson City. Sheriff George Hightower eventually caught up with the convicts and a shoot out took place. Robert Morrison, a Benton Merchant and Mono Jim along with other other posse members encountered the convicts on the present Convict Creek, then known as Monte Diablo Creek. In the encounter, Robert Morrison and Mono Jim were killed. The convicts escaped and were eventually captured later in Round Valley.
"This beautifully written book leads its readers on the journey from Emancipation to the devastating convict-leasing system in Georgia. . . . [and] examines the exploitation of black women's bodies, the beginnings of mass incarceration, and the rise of the modern New South."--Erica Armstrong Dunbar, The Nation
As fans may recall, in the ninth episode of Season 3, Michael learns that Martin Nash, a Black employee who recently transferred to the Scranton branch from Stamford, is a reformed convict. After Nash (played by actor and comedian Wayne Wilderson) reveals he did time for involvement in insider trading, he talks about his experience in prison, which sounds a little better than working at Dunder Mifflin. Heartbroken over the idea that his employees might prefer prison to working with him, Michael turns into Prison Mike to teach everyone that prison is bad.
One of those lines takes place after the conference room scene in which Michael, Pam, Angela, and Kevin learn that the company receives a Work Opportunity Tax Credit for employing Nash, an ex-convict.
A death row inmate awaiting execution, asked as a last wish a pencil and paper. After writing for several minutes, the convict called the prison guard and asked that this letter be handed over to his biological mother.
The purported missive from death row included no information about the identity of its writer, his location, when he wrote it, or the crimes he was charged with. Moreover, it was accompanied by a completely unrelated photograph of "hot convict" Jeremy Meeks, who became internationally notorious when his exceptionally flattering mugshot went viral in 2013. Meeks was sentenced on weapons charges, but he was not involved with a capital case (and therefore was neither sentenced to death nor executed).
There are three main issues that need to be taken into consideration in the context of pre-trial detention: firstly, pre-trial detention is overused in most countries worldwide and in many developing countries the size of the pre-trial prisoner population is larger than that of the convicted prisoner population. This situation contradicts the provisions in international standards, including ICCPR, that provide for the limited use of pre-trial detention, only when certain conditions are present. Secondly, pre-trial detention is the period most open to abuse in the criminal justice process. Recognizing the particular vulnerability of pre-trial detainees, international human rights instruments provide for a large number of very specific safeguards to ensure that the rights of detainees are not abused, that they are not ill-treated and their access to justice not hindered. Thirdly, although pre-trial detainees should be presumed innocent until found guilty by a court of law, and treated as such, conditions in pre-trial detention are often much worse than those of prisons for convicted prisoners. In addition, the lack of resources for prisons in many low-income countries means that people in detention do not have access to legal advice and assistance, with the result being that they may overstay on remand, and/or not receive a fair trial, further adding to the congestion of prisons. Therefore, improving access to justice, supporting legal and paralegal aid programmes, improving information management and cooperation between courts and prisons, to speed up the processing of cases, as well as assisting with the development of safeguards for pre-trial detainees, such as independent monitoring and inspection mechanisms, comprise important elements of UNODC's work in the field of penal reform.
Built in 1840 (not 1790) the Success had many lives, first as a shipping vessel serving British India and then as a passenger ship ferrying immigrants (not convicts) to Australia. During one trip to Australia the Success arrived right at the peak of the Australian gold rush and her crew deserted to strike it rich. Without mariners the ship was left moored near Melbourne, Australia, where it became a prison hulk and later a stores ship.
Children who were orphaned, removed from negligent parents, or who were juvenile offenders were especially vulnerable after emancipation. They could end up in the convict leasing system as "'apprentices" and fall once more into white planters' hands. Unknown location, ca. 1903. Photo credit: Detroit Publishing Company Collection, Library of Congress.
Often completely innocent of the crimes of which they were accused, these African Americans were forced to work from sunup to sundown, in chains, under the lash and gunpoint of the white guards. Under convict leasing, Black people going about their day could be rounded up, convicted of made-up crimes, separated from their families, processed through an all-white court, and treated with little to no regard to their human value. In his book Texas Tough, historian Robert Perkinson estimates that at least 30,000 died in the convict leasing system across the South over 55 years. One can find blatant and insidious parallels between convict leasing and mass incarceration and the prison-industrial complex. As Bryan Stevenson says, "slavery did not end in 1865. It just evolved." However, convict leasing rarely appears in history textbooks. The generational loss and trauma in Black families is left unexamined.
Without ever learning about convict leasing, how can Americans make sense of the discovery of a mass gravesite in a prosperous suburban town? Will the public sweep these uncomfortable truths under the rug again?
The land where the 95 African American remains were unearthed during construction is owned by the Fort Bend Independent School District, which purchased this former convict camp and state prison land in 2011 and has been accused of mishandling the remains. At the time of writing, Fort Bend ISD continues to own and operate this cemetery unilaterally against community wishes. Moreover, there is no historical marker or other information at the site that tells the history of what happened there. They have even renamed the site with one that is unrelated to the history of convict leasing.
Americans must find the hidden chapters of their history and really begin to understand the legacy of racial oppression that has strengthened the walls of white supremacy. A version of history that omits these chapters has stolen a chance for the nation to learn from it, and to fix what has been broken by it. As Americans seek to dismantle Confederate monuments, they must also actively create new monuments and narratives that broaden their understanding of justice, democracy, and humanity. I believe that building a memorial dedicated to victims and survivors of convict leasing in Sugar Land, Texas is a step in the right direction.
After breakfast at The Flourmill Cafe, drive through the countryside for just under an hour to the Toodyay Red Hill Convict Road Station Ruins, constructed in the 1850s. The camp housed the convict road gangs that built and maintained the road to Perth. Back then, there were five buildings made of rammed earth; now the ruins of only one remain.
Established in 1853, it housed 60 ticket-of-leave convicts and put them to work at the Geraldine Lead Mine and local pastoral stations. After exploring the depot, and the nearby pretty town of Northampton, set off on the five-hour journey back to Perth, this time taking the scenic Indian Ocean Drive.