Escape from the Work Ethic Camp

Hey, look an escape!

One early evening after supper in December 2016, the winter sun throwing parallelograms of light across the prison yard, he made a run for it. Russell was a star high-school sprinter. At 6 ft 2 in (188 cm), he easily scrambled up the nine-foot fence, and in a single bound, cleared three rounds of barbed wire and landed on the other side of the wall.

It was Christmas morning when he was captured and returned to prison, with an extra year tacked on to his sentence.

This guy, Andrew Russell, physically escaped a prison called the Work Ethic Camp.

He’d been arrested for drug dealing (after finding no solution to poverty in low-paid work) and remanded to this prison. The prison’s wacky programme was to teach inmates the inherent value of work through barely-paid 30-40 hour work weeks. Needless to say, it turned out to be boring, insulting, and useless.

The story is told by Sam Haselby in Aeon magazine as part of a broader investigation into the work ethic in America and where it comes from.

The work ethic […] is a form of resignation, a product of defeat.

Attributing our exceptional work hours to an ideology woefully mistakes cause for effect. Ideology isn’t the driver of our lived experiences, but the product of them. Our ideological commitment to work is the result of incessant and repeated activity – literally doing our jobs day in and day out. And there’s nothing we do with as much regularity, intensity and unquestioned submission as work. We rationalise our quotidian experiences by shaping belief systems to accommodate them, not the other way around.

Thanks to Reader A for directing us to this. It’s a really good piece of journalism and certainly worth your time.


Is your job a solution to poverty or inherently satisfying? If not, read The Good Life for Wage Slaves to lament your plight and Escape Everything! AKA I’m Out to plot your escape.


Robert Wringham is the editor of New Escapologist. He also writes books and articles. Read more at

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