Dunkirk Used Prison Labor to Save on Production Costs

Companion books can provide interested individuals with a fair amount of information about their favorite movies. Sometimes, some of this information can be rather concerning, as shown by a recent example in the Dunkirk companion book that revealed that the production for the movie used prison labor.

To be fair, Dunkirk‘s use of prison labor was not extensive in nature. It needed fenders made out of hemp rope to be historically-accurate, but since modern fenders are made out of rubber, it needed someone to make them from scratch. Fortunately, the crew managed to find someone who had the skills needed to make the fenders out of hemp rope, but there was still the need to find sufficient manpower. As a result, he used prison labor to make the fenders, thus providing the people behind Dunkirk with what they needed at a lower price than otherwise possible.

Is This a Bad Thing?

Some people will be tempted to think less of the people behind Dunkirk because of this revelation. Unfortunately, it is difficult to say whether they would be justified in doing so or not. This is not so much because the issue is complicated but because there is not enough information to form a well-reasoned opinion.

Basically, prison labor can be either positive or negative under certain circumstances. For example, if it provides prisoners with a chance to earn some income while picking up expertise and experience that will enable them to make a smoother transition to life beyond the bars, it should be seen as a positive. However, if it is used to get manpower at a lower cost than otherwise possible with no consideration for the well-being of the prisoners whatsoever, that is bad not just for the prisoners but also for the people who might have been hired to provide manpower as well.

Unfortunately, the short statement in the companion book does not provide interested individuals with enough information to make a judgment about whether the experience was positive or negative. On the one hand, it seems improbable that those prisoners will find much use for their fender-making expertise and experience in the future; on the other hand, it is not known how well they were compensated for their time, which is rendered more difficult to analyze because prisoners have been known to sign up for such efforts for a change of pace from prison life.

Furthermore, there is the fact that it wasn’t the people behind Dunkirk who made use of prison labor but rather the man hired by them. While a normal consumer can be excused for not knowing about the exact methods used to provide them with their products and services, the people behind Dunkirk have a lot more economic power, though the extent to which they should be held responsible for the choices of their contractors is a complicated topic on its own.

Why Is Prison Labor Regarded As Such a Bad Thing?

At this point, some people might be curious about why prison labor is seen in such a negative light. This is a complicated topic, but the problem can be summed up as prisoners having little bargaining power of their own. As a result, prisoners are exploited for their labor on a regular basis. In fact, it should be noted that prisoners in the United States can be forced to provide their labor, which makes for a rather unpleasant picture when one remembers that high percentage of black people in prison populations.

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