Convict leasing was a system of penal labor implemented in the Southern United States during the Reconstruction Era and late 19th century. It allowed for convicted criminals to be leased out as laborers to private companies or landowners, which gave them financial incentives for utilizing cheap prison labor. The convicts were often mistreated by their supervisors and were subjected to hard labor such as picking cotton and digging ditches (Greene, 2020). Convict leasing played an important role in helping to create a new “industrial” South by providing a source of much-needed labor that was both cheap and reliable.
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