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By Florence Bernault

Over the final 30 years, a considerable literature at the heritage of yankee and ecu prisons has constructed. This assortment is likely one of the first in English to build a historical past of prisons in Africa. themes contain precolonial punishments, dwelling stipulations in prisons and mining camps, ethnic mapping, modern refugee camps, and the political use of legal from the period of the slave alternate to the Rwandan genocide of 1994.

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Only the infirm were exempt. 99 No geographical exceptions existed: both urban and rural prisons made systematic use of penal Iabor. Second, the penal administration routinely assigned detainees to work for private entrepreneurs, especially after the abolition of forced Iabor. Third, colonial rulers percei ved penal Iabor as a necessary, even vital, part of the colonial economy. At times, the high demand for penallabor resulted in competition between different detention centers. In French Guinea, in the early 1920s, the govemor tried repeatedly to convince rural district chiefs to send part of their prison population to Conakry, in order to meet the need for Iabor in the capital.

In a confusion typical of the colonial situation, the recourse to penallabor ob Iiterated the barriers between the private and public sectors, and erased the difference between free Iabor and forced Iabor. As a hidden fonn of forced Iabor, penal Iabor endured up to the end of colonial rule. weil after the abolition of mandatory labor. 97 Whether detainees belonged to the central prison of an urban capital or a rural prison in the interior, they mostly worked for the agricultural sector. This included working in the fruit and vegetable gardens of penitentiary adrrtinistrators~ as weil as in the yards of district administrators.

From the colonial perspective~ prisoners provided a docile, cheap, and constantly available Iabor force for underpaid tasks of handling and packing, urban maintenance, and unskilled domestic work. In a confusion typical of the colonial situation, the recourse to penallabor ob Iiterated the barriers between the private and public sectors, and erased the difference between free Iabor and forced Iabor. As a hidden fonn of forced Iabor, penal Iabor endured up to the end of colonial rule. weil after the abolition of mandatory labor.

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