2007/03/05

Off Shore, Near Shore, and Now...Jail Shore

File this under the heading of 'unintended consequences'.

Colorado has got a big problem. After passing one of the nation's toughest illegal immigration laws, the state's agricultural industry is nearing collapse because most of the low-wage migrant workers it depended on have fled. But proving that necessity is truly the mother of invention, state legislators have come up with a novel solution: Put convicts in the fields and make them pick vegetables...practically for free.

Farmers like it. Legislators like it. Big Agro likes it. Prison guards like it (they get paid to watch the prisoners). Seems everybody likes it. And what does your author think? Well, these are prisoners. Do they have a right to control what they do, or do not do, while incarcerated? Probably not, but there is a big difference between making license plates for the government and laboring to fatten Archer Daniels Midland's bottom line.

There is also a pernicious dark side to convicts laboring on behalf of big business. Get corporations used to the idea that they can fill their low prestige, low skill jobs with prisoners and suddenly you've got government and Big Agro colluding to lock up more and more people. Yes sir! Ease that temporary labor shortage with Jail-o-Sourcing!.

HT to Deb of Deb's Web who wryly noted how indentured servitude seems to be back in fashion.

17 Comments:

Looks to me a lot like Slavery...rather than anything else...but I could be just over thinking it...
Brings to mind the prison road crews in Paul Newman's movie Cool Hand Luke: "What we have heah, is uh failurh to comoonicate."

hmmm, windspike is onto something with the slavery comparison, seeing as how there are an inordinate number of african-americans in our prison system. ~~ D.K.
It's a double edged sword...I see on one side it is a good thing...they get out into the real world for a time as opposed to just a prison yard...yet there is the angle of the Corporate interest being a bad thing potentially. Very interesting K!
sorry I'm with the slavery opinion too.

so because your in prison you have to do what job the politicians deem necessary? great! free sewer cleaners, rat killers, hey maybe even school bus drivers!

or wait!! I've got it, the next time some major union goes on strike (say air traffic controllers, or elementary teachers) just fire the lot and use Jail-o-Sourcing! Oh this is going to be big....
What do you know, Uncle Sam took a page from the playbook of the Chinese People's Liberation Army! Those rascals have been behind many economic miracles by introducing this convinient source of cheap labor.

Since, the both countries, China and the U.S.A., have one of the highest incarceration rates in the world, the supply of fresh worker ants is guaranteed. Let's see if the next step will be to start harvesting the organs from those no good criminals, just like they do in China! And if you excecute some of those bastards, might as well start collecting the good bodyparts because the markets for them have never been better. There is a lot of money in them tehre livers, hearts and lungs!
I think that the slavery angle may be an apt analogy, but what really gets me is that convict labor is being used to line the pockets of companies like ADM. If anything, we should see that labor used to improve communities.

So what's next, the incarcerated being handed off to Halliburton and shipped overseas to be used as human IED detectors--very close, I think, to what you're talking about Pekka.
Ah, but if you tighten the laws, and lock up millions BEFORE you kick out the migrant workers, no one can accuse you of planning it from the beginning.

Brilliant!!!
We are going back in time. Next up? Debtor's prisons. I would cry for us as a society if I had any tears left.
Folks? While I don't like the idea of letting prisoners enrich the corporate coffers, please "Uncle Sam?"... This is ONE STATE - Colorado. That's it. Not the federal government, not something signed by the Shrub (not that he wouldn't - but I don't believe in laying blame where there isn't cause.)

This isn't some nation-wide conspiracy, and Colorado is a bit strange anyhow - I lived there for 5 miserable, gut-wrenching years.

While the corporate angle, as stated before, bothers me, I must say that having prisoners who actually learn what it is like to do some PRODUCTIVE manual labor (not just busting rocks), and who work hard enough to tire themselves out and not be a problem once they go back inside for the night is a good thing.

"Slavery???" Come on folks - we aren't talking about people who had no choice - these people chose to commit crimes, many of them violent. I have no sympathy - if you can't do the time....
Praguetwin... I'm sure the Incarceration Industrial Complex is licking their chops over how they could profit from coordinating jail-sourcing.

Hill... Ah debtor's prisons. Now there's an idea whose time has come...again. Imagine the financial industry starts pushing for incarceration for defaulting on your credit-card debt. They throw you in prison but get you to work off the debt at pennies per day.
Sewmouse... Actually I think the article alluded to proposals being considered in other states as well, but that said, I agree with you that there should be no prohibition on labor generally: skilled trades, community service...sure.

I really object to creating a windfall for big business through convict labor.
A Scanner Darkly.
Are they offering some choice or incentive for the Prisoners? Working the fields earns credit on a sentence for example?

If I were doing hard time, I think I'd rather be on a field than in the shower room. But I am also leery of anything that big business does.
Fred...now that connection I wouldn't have made, but now that you mention it...

Pam... I don't remember reading about any incentives. The convicts in question are non-violent offenders, I think.
The reason I didn't call it slavery was because of the 60 cents per day option. If left unchecked, they will take this idea and run with it.

People always forget that America was founded by religious fanatics and criminals. They weren't hardcore criminals most of the time, they were people who had committed minor infractions, had offended some type of royalty or couldn't repay the credit that had been extended.

Next up, a new Stamp Act.
the strength of a society can be measured by how it treats it's least powerful members.

I DO have compassion for inmates, many have already had difficult lives, often including prejudice and/or inadequate legal resources. If we continue to treat them as animals, unworthy of our compassion than they will remain in this vicious circle. Society as a whole does not benefit from this.

I also do believe there are some very frightening people in prisons and deserve to remain there, but we still will accomplish nothing by treating other human beings as less than that - human beings.

"An eye for an eye just makes the whole world blind" -- Gandhi
Deb... Misfits all, aren't we? I like the idea of work for inmates, especially in skilled trades--which doesn't include picking vegetables for ADM or anyone else.

And Callooh, you're very right to point out how our system is failing the incarcerated. My only comment is that we better figure out how to fix it double quick, as our prison populations are skyrocketing.

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