Government turns to prisoners for cheap labor

The road to riches is paved with cheap labor. (See: China) And you don’t get much cheaper than prisoners.

A skilled onion picker can earn $10 an hour.

A skilled onion picker can earn $10 an hour.

Recently, the state of Georgia announced a plan to use prisoners to harvest crops. Why? A new law pretty much ran off Hispanic field hands.

As federal employees celebrate Columbus, perhaps history’s most famous and geographically confused immigrant, the lack of onion pickers in Vidalia brings crocodile tears to the eyes.

The prisoner farm plan comes after a failed scheme to seduce probationers into doing the dirty work.

Now, a Georgia county is planning to use inmates to man fire stations.

A properly trained firefighter costs upwards of $30,000 a year. An inmate will work a lot cheaper – Camden County hopes to save $500,000 a year.

Of course, when my flaming roof is about to collapse, I’d prefer a guy to show up with an ax that knows how to use it for its law-abiding purpose.

Georgia isn’t the only place giving jobs to the undeserving: Indiana’s War Memorial saves $400,000 a year since using inmates ($1.50 per hour) instead of a landscaping company.

With a seemingly limitless number of criminals to employ, the jobless rate may not go down anytime soon.

125 comments Add your comment

dood

October 10th, 2011
12:05 pm

picking peaches is one thing, saving a family in a burning building? Forget it. Terrible idea. The worst!
The one bright side could be I wouldn’t need to grab my valuables in a burning building, certainly they’d find my watches, the wife’s jewelry, and nice electronics.

GTHunter

October 10th, 2011
12:07 pm

I have NO issue with using prisoners to pick crops. NONE. Fighting fires is a different story….

Ken Kahn

October 10th, 2011
12:09 pm

They should have ben put to work in the fields long ago. No downside. They have no “rights” (beyond human rights) when in jail.

MA

October 10th, 2011
12:09 pm

It is about time! Most of the criminals out there apparently do not know how to W-O-R-K. Instead of sitting around in prison taking drugs (yes, it does happen!), watching TV, lifting weights, planning what their next crime spree will be when they get out of jail, etc. they need to be sweating like the rest of productive society. If they can’t contribute to society while out of jail, at least they can be productive while in prison.

Great Idea

October 10th, 2011
12:09 pm

I think using inmates to perform agricultural jobs and landscaping duties on government property is a great idea!! I think using inmate labor for firefighting is a horrible idea! Firefighters should not be tasked with having to supervise inmates. Their concentration should be solely on fighting the fire~!!

yhfaith

October 10th, 2011
12:11 pm

Be careful people with the comments– these people in prison are someone’s children and one day it could be one of yours. Be careful what you wish on these people.

Junior Samples

October 10th, 2011
12:14 pm

Inmates as firefighters. Brilliant!

“The inmates would have no guard, but would be monitored by a surveillance system and by the traditional firefighters, who would undergo training to guard the inmates”

Even better.

shameonhumanity

October 10th, 2011
12:15 pm

This is obviously a return to slavery and will make the current justice system even more ripe for corruption. What incentive with counties have to educate kids, keep families strong and healthy, create opportunities for youth to lift themselves out of poverty, to rehabilitate drug and alcohol addicts and to help former prisoners reintegrate into society if it is much more profitable to create more prisoners. With that kind of incentive, we create wounded, uneducated children to feed into a prison industrial complex. Perfect for a south that never finished mourning the loss of a confederacy. Its a slippery slop and this is the new world order at play.

Freedom Lover

October 10th, 2011
12:15 pm

Worse idea ever. Let me see. We need more cotton picked. Hey bubba lets go down to the hood and bust me some young men so my cousin Jr. can get some cheap labor to pick his cotton..Is it going to be as easy to fight charges when we need people to pick tomatoes the government would now have an intrest in busting people..

Makes Cents

October 10th, 2011
12:16 pm

And why shouldn’t this state use this labor? Our tax dollars go towards expensive court fees and court appointed lawyers. Then our tax dollars go to housing, feeding, bathing, educating, and medically treating these convicted felons for years if not decades. They should be contributing to society in a meaningful way – not just eat, sleep, and poop. I look at this as a win-win because the state gets badly needed labor and the felons get some trade skills that they may be able to use if/when they are released. Prisons are supposed to be rehabilitation centers anyway. As far as the immigrants who were here illegally and have left for fear of deportation? Good! There is a legal way to become a citizen. Just because it takes time and work doesn’t mean one can skip it and still enjoy the benefits of it. Plus, skimping on paying taxes on earned income is not the way to move this state forward. Lastly, I’ll say that even for those receiving unemployment checks, there should be a mandatory 10 hour labor service (community service or whatever) where their skills are being utilized weekly in order to receive their checks. If you think that’s brutal, do the math. $300 for 10 hours of work equates to $30/hr. Who wouldn’t want to get paid $30/hr while looking for a job and gaining new skills? Oh yeah, those who can work 0 hrs and still get the $300. #FAIL

shameonhumanity

October 10th, 2011
12:17 pm

not to mention the fact that people who avoid crime and seek honest pay as, let’s say a fire fighter, will lose out to people who work for free. Maybe they’ll get desperate enough to commit a crime or simply not be able to pay a speeding ticket before they too end up in line to be “slave labour.”

blakbot

October 10th, 2011
12:18 pm

Sounds and SMELLS like SLAVERY- SHAME on the government and corporations for denying these people work, then imprisoning them for economic reasons (drugs/ theft) THEN forcing them to work for FREE (SLAVERY)

Tech '10

October 10th, 2011
12:19 pm

I wish that they would gain a skill set that would make them less likely to go back to prison. Sitting around while I pay for them is not a pleasant thought. Inmates should have to work to help repay the society which they preyed upon. A little honest hard work is never a bad idea. Not too keen on the fire fighting thing though… Yes they are someone’s children, but they are also the bane of someone elses existence.

Peg

October 10th, 2011
12:19 pm

So Georgia plans yet another return to the chain gang. Georgia was the last state to discontinue this practice in 1955. They made an attempt to start it up again in 1995, but abandoned it after being sued by human rights organizations. Here we go again. Once again, Georgia, you make me so proud…

larry coleman

October 10th, 2011
12:19 pm

Slavery all over again!!! I guess you will be going to prison for any thing now.

dood

October 10th, 2011
12:20 pm

can you guys really believe your comments about going and busting people to feed prisons with labor? Wow, you are really out of touch. First off, they’re already bursting at the seams with drug offenders and thieves…second, maybe they will remember picking peaches in the hot Georgia sun instead of kicking it in the weight room when they get out. Go for it, but keep them out of the fire stations.

Makes Cents

October 10th, 2011
12:22 pm

Also, I don’t think they’re going to put just anyone in a firefighter uniform. I believe there will be an assessment. Again, some people have have made some very foolish mistakes in their past that they hope to redeem. We shouldn’t think that just because they are prisoners that they can never be fully functional persons of our society again. The state will not put a person incapable of fighting a fire in the role of the firefighter. For all we know they could be tasked with cleaning the fire engine and other non-critical duties. It does not necessarily mean they will automatically be fighting fires. Think about it.

commoncents

October 10th, 2011
12:22 pm

shameonhumanity- shame on you! I hope everyone doesn’t feel the way you do and think that the gov’t must provide everything for you.

“What incentive [would] counties have to educate kids, keep families strong and healthy, create opportunities for youth to lift themselves out of poverty, to rehabilitate drug and alcohol addicts and to help former prisoners reintegrate into society”

Perhaps families should be having those conversations? Or should families no longer raise their own kids and create plans to lift themselves up, and instead rely on more government?

Ben

October 10th, 2011
12:23 pm

It won’t work, especially picking crops in South Georgia. They are not acclimated or motivated to keep up with the Mexicans plus they’re about 7 generations behind the groups that use to really do “hard labor” of the type seen on Cool Hand Luke.

So the end result is that the legislature has run off the illegal alien work force, the crops are going to rot in the fields and we’re going to pay higher food costs. We have to honestly ask and answer was it worth it?

edinatlanta

October 10th, 2011
12:23 pm

Having them clean and landscape government buildings is one thing but I dont think private farms should benefit from prison labor. We lock up more people than any other country. Do we want to turn agriculture over to the state to run with forced labor? What are we turning into here??? Prisioners as firefighters????? I mean you cant make this stuff up…

whocares

October 10th, 2011
12:27 pm

I have always thought about sending prisoners off to war to let them fight for their freedom. If they make it back, they are free to rejoin society. If they don’t, then they paid their debt to society…

Pat

October 10th, 2011
12:28 pm

Why are people angry over this? These people did a crime and need to do something other than sit and watch TV all day and workout. How about giving something back to the society that is paying for their “room and board?” Maybe it will show them that doing crimes is not worth it when you have to actually do something in jail.
Having them being firefighters is a stupid idea. I would not trust them on coming to put out fires when human life is at stake. Also, why would you take the jobs away from people that train and actually want to be there to help society instead of people who commit crimes that are against society. That does not make sense to me.

shameonhumanity

October 10th, 2011
12:29 pm

In case you didn’t already know, corporations and towns are already raking in $$$ on prisoners and your tax dollars. Many prisons are privatized and there is profit to be made on building prisons and once they are built, they will need to fill them. Your tax dollars will still be feeding, housing, clothing prisoners – but perhaps it will be even more of them now. Its free labor for corporations that will then raise the prise of your produce while your wages become stagnant or your jobs disappear. An injustice anywhere is an injustice everywhere and none of us are immune. It could be your son or daughter who makes a foolish mistake and gets sent off to a slave colony, so don’t be blinded by the stigma attached to criminals.

Tech '10

October 10th, 2011
12:30 pm

Makes Cents: I think you are asking too much out of some of the readers. I would personally be up for giving inmates that met a certain set of criteria to be put on construction jobs. That way they learn a trade for when they get out and gov’t buildings can be built for less. Make them framers or drywallers, make them pick up the trash, something. Part of the reason why criminals come out and almost certainly go back is that they have a stigma around them now and not one new skill to show for it most of the time. Heck, bring shop classes to the prison, it’s not like these people are convicted serial rapists and murderers. Most of them got busted for pot or for shoplifting a gas station. They deserve a second chance just as much as we deserve them not being a tax burden anymore.

sls

October 10th, 2011
12:31 pm

good idea!! it’s about time they have to get up and do something!

commoncents

October 10th, 2011
12:32 pm

Providing inamtes with food, board, medical etc for free is ok, but asking them to repay some of their debt while they are still incarcerated is slavery?

Sounds like most of you are defining slavery as working at a job you don’t like…

edinatlanta

October 10th, 2011
12:32 pm

do you dream of living in a “Road Warrior” kind of world? Admit it, you think that would be kind of cool dont you?

Jim Crow

October 10th, 2011
12:39 pm

Shame on the state of Ga. always want something for nothing, this is slavery.

AVM

October 10th, 2011
12:39 pm

What about as police officers? Or, better yet, government officials – they’re probably just as self-serving. Seriously, peaches and manual labor are one thing, but fighting fires and other critical government duties is laughable (and scary).

Makes Cents

October 10th, 2011
12:41 pm

Tech ‘10, I completely agree with you. I watch the comment board from time to time. I don’t know if a lot of people put a lot of thought into the holistic view of rehabilitating criminals. I like your point about the reason some of these criminals go back. They have not been equipped with the tools to function in society AND many people are not willing to give them a chance. This may be a bad example, but look at the star of “Catch Me if You Can”. In the end, he turned his deviant behavior into a constructive use for our government. No, not every story will be as successful, but a second chance is not too much to ask for. agree @ us not having them as tax burden btw

shameonhumanity

October 10th, 2011
12:42 pm

commoncents – common sense tells us that there are many families who want to do better but who need help – be it opportunities for training for better paying jobs, temporary assistance, good schools, or incitives for companies to hire people at a “living wage”, etc. Not all poor families are sitting on their butts waiting for a hand out.By investing in healthier, stronger families, they can give back to our communities when they become business owners and/or educated employees. You’re so quick to think that I’m advocating that gov’t do take care of people (I believe in hand ups, not hand outs) but you turn a blind side to ways the government is doing so much to help the less-than-needy. Your tax dollars fund very powerful and wealthy entities here and abroad, and its a much higher percentage of your paycheck than the mythical “welfare queens’ bite off. Here’s a question, what about this farm scheme will make your tax burden lighter? Do you think there will be less prisoners as a result this or that the profits prisoners make will be reinvested into the prisoners care?

LydiasDad

October 10th, 2011
12:43 pm

It will work if the wage is increased to make it worthwhile. If you continue to pay prisoners the illegal wage we pay illegals, then it won’t work. Common sense. If you think we should keep illegals because “it helps business”, then let’s also cut business taxes and get rid of OSHA. Those hurt business too.

ROCK STEADY FREDDY

October 10th, 2011
12:44 pm

This is a great idea! So many positives can come from this!

DD

October 10th, 2011
12:47 pm

This is only correct as the prisoners need to be made to know that jail is not an acceptable way of life. As far as the chants of slavery go, why should a lot of my pay be sent for those who do not work? They eat better food than I do and have better cars than the one I drive. Is that not considered another form of slavery?

gbal

October 10th, 2011
12:49 pm

Not all for the prisioners as firefighters? Something doesnt sit right with that for me.

As for working fields and landscaping…. All for it. My only issue is ” they will work for much less…$1.50 per hour”.

First, these folks ar prisioners for a reason. They have taken a liberty or right from someone else to land in the prision. They should have no rights during the term they are serving their penalty to socioty.

The shoud not be paid for this work. Not even the $1.50 per hour. The government should charge individual landowners the $1.50 for the services of picking crops…. but this $1.50 per hour should go directly towards the cost of running the prisions/housing inmates. Thus offsetting the taxpayer cost of supporting prisions.

Anyone who says this would be back to slavery days is pathetic. These people have committed a crime for gods sake and they should not have any rights.

Rational Citizen

October 10th, 2011
12:50 pm

This system is ripe for abuse. How long until these slave-laborers begin complaining that there aren’t enough prisoners to do the jobs they want done? And since we’re paying to house and feed these prisoners, how much of a cut is the taxpayer going to get from anyone who employs these people?

Joe

October 10th, 2011
12:53 pm

Cheap labor is cheap labor. If not illegal’s, will be prisoners. First at the farms, second firefighters later in construction and police officers or who knows what is next.

DawgDad

October 10th, 2011
12:54 pm

Working prisoners in a private enterprise is a horrific idea, brought to you by many of the same people who brought us illegal immigrant workers. If a skilled illegal immigrant can earn $10 per hour, then common sense dictates the job is worth more. If that drives up onion prices, so be it; otherwise, it’s labor racketeering and corruption of a public institution at its worst.

Rational Citizen

October 10th, 2011
12:54 pm

to gbal…”these people…should not have any rights.” Are you even being serious? How presumptuous of you to pretend to know the circumstances behind every single person serving in the Georgia prison system. I hope a loved one of yours gets locked up and gets beaten unconscious or raped behind bars. Let’s hear you talk about how they have no rights then.

Rational Citizen

October 10th, 2011
12:56 pm

The amount of ignorance and sheer idiocy on this comment section is appalling.

Derwood

October 10th, 2011
12:57 pm

We have a fire truck that is manned by inmates and they do an excellent job. They do as told adn when fire is over they help other depts load hoses, etc.
These guys also appreciate opportunity to get out of cell for training and fire runs.

DawgDad

October 10th, 2011
12:57 pm

Maybe they could round up the “Occupy Atlanta” bunch, jail them for trespassing, and farm them out for a week or two of “social justice”? Just saying.

Real American

October 10th, 2011
1:00 pm

Rational Citizen, the AJC encourages as much ignorance as possible in their comment section.

Real American

October 10th, 2011
1:01 pm

DawgDad, and I’m sure you want them to round up the Tea Party protestors too right?

George Mathis

October 10th, 2011
1:01 pm

Someone else’s opinion isn’t “ignorance,” despite what you hear on talk radio.

Jack

October 10th, 2011
1:01 pm

Prisoners harvesting crops should have been happening a long time ago.

Choices

October 10th, 2011
1:02 pm

shameonhumanity needs to get off the “slippery slop”. No sympathy. It’t the perfect way to get something back for good money spent on bad people. If they don’t want to do it……obey the law no matter what your color.

Question everything

October 10th, 2011
1:03 pm

Using inmate labor for government buildings and lands make sense, repaying the amount of money it takes to feed abd house them. I do not agree with using them in the private sector because that is influencing competition. Who dictates what farmers gets how many inmates? If I’m friends with the warden do I get the 20 strongest guys, or if I slept with his sister I get no help from inmates and I’m forced to compete with the guy who’s not paying for labor? Question I think worth asking. Plus there are plenty of government/ state lands, parks, and buildings that could use the free labor.

art

October 10th, 2011
1:05 pm

Slavery returns to Georgia, some things never change.

Love it

October 10th, 2011
1:05 pm

Love the idea and they need to add one more thing …..have them sing Sam cooke’s Working on the chain Gang….Ooh, aah, ooh, aah Ooh, aah, ooh, aah (Well, don’t you know)
That’s the sound of the men Working on the chain gang That’s the sound of the men
Working on the chain gang All day long they’re singing Ooh, aah, ooh, aah Ooh, aah, ooh, aah…….