A Burglar in the Making: The State of Georgia Leases Convicts to Private Persons and Corporations

Charles Edward Russell, A Burglar in the Making: The State of Georgia Leases Convicts to Private Persons and Corporations. Everybody’s Magazine, June 1908. Editor’s Note: “This terrible story of life in a Georgia convicts’ camp was related to Mr. Russell by a one-time criminal, now a man reformed and regenerated. For apparent reasons, the man’s identity must be carefully guarded here; but all the essentials of the narrative are exactly as recited. Many of them Mr. Russell has been able to verify from his own observations; the others can be accepted upon faith. They reveal clearly the shameful system by which the State of Georgia surrenders for profits the solemn duty of correcting her wrong-doers, and thereby insures day after day the perpetuation of evils that result in the murder of souls and the making of hardened and desperate criminals. There is a broader application of the momentous lesson of these facts than to the State of Georgia. In a way that you have never suspected, but is here made plain, the convicts’ camp in Georgia is but a symbol or type of conditions existing in every part of the United States.”

Excerpt from story:

For the year ending May 31, 1907, the State of Georgia had 2,464 convicts, of whom 1,890 were contracted into servitude to various private persons and corporations, and 574 were employed on the county roads. In 1906 the number was 1,773 to the contractors and 571 on the county roads. From the labor of these culprits thus sold to private persons, the state in 1906 received $333,463.84 and in 1907 $353,455.55. These profits are the sole returns from a system that multiplies criminals, breeds brutality, encourages crime and puts upon one of the fairest states in the Union a hideous blot.