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


October 10th, 2011
2:38 pm

Sounds like it’s a good time to get back into the plantation bid’ness. Get us some low/no cost labor and have the state take care of employee complaints, health care, etc. The flag may be gone but the confederacy lives!


October 10th, 2011
2:39 pm

Civic duty or slavery and Pat, when a person who volunteers that his or her church, civic organization or a non profit, it is something that they choose to do and not made to do as apart of their job. def, I agree all people should work if they want to receive any type of compensation and nothing should be given. Therefore, as I stated why not allow the RICH farm owner sponsor their illegal works and allow them an opportunity to become citizens. I see know one has agreed with that idea, and I guess the reason for that, is because, that would be fair and the right thing to do for the people.


October 10th, 2011
2:40 pm

“cheap labor”… it’s slavery. The people in prison for illegal drug offences are being abused by the state; prohibition is extremely unethical. We should not be using people as slaves because they used a drug or sold a drug to consenting adults. As for those few who should be in prison, they should be paid a wage that enables them to realistically escape poverty.


October 10th, 2011
2:47 pm

KGray, that is up to the farmer if they want to sponsor the illegal. They are allowed that option and I do not know if they took it or not. It is their choice.
The inmates are not being used as slaves, since the article says it is their choice to work there or not and they will get compensated for their time.


October 10th, 2011
3:05 pm

Pat, the reason none of the RICH farm owners haven’t taken that opportunity is;because, they want to allowed to continue to pay illgals low wages off the books and avoid paying payroll taxes.. Once they sponsor the workers they will have to payroll taxes on each worker and that was something that they didn’t do or not willing to do. It all about PROFITS and nothing else and if paying taxes would keep their profits down, tthen why not get the Governor and other state officals involved in order to avoid paying taxes. Get prisoners and cheap labor and not have to pay any payroll taxes; because, they don’t have to pay taxes on prisoners.


October 10th, 2011
3:07 pm

chain gangs
right or wrong?


October 10th, 2011
3:11 pm

KGray, that is correct. That is why the farmers did not sponsor them, it cost too much. But if you give that incentive for them not to have to pay payroll taxes, then every other business will want that same incentive. The prisoners are still making money while doing work. Would you rather have an illegal doing the job or an inmate who wants to do the job?


October 10th, 2011
3:17 pm

Right! Once they are on payroll tax then the employer must pay taxes to fund unemployment and that is all a mess in itself. They relished in undocumented workers because of this and not to have to pay benefits, then the undocumented worker is in fear of ICE and the smoke and mirrors American dream! This has been happening for years; I say some of these businesses get what they deserve trying to take the cheap way out and mistreating employees I say they burn!


October 10th, 2011
3:43 pm

Take jobs from people who have risked there lives for people they don’t even know? How about have them pave roads and ride garbage trucks. What idiot thought to put criminals on a job that is for the tax paying citizens? Is a criminal who you want your family member to have their life in the hands of. Dumb@$$.

Someone who actually researched

October 10th, 2011
4:04 pm

For all of those who say that the illegals have a choice to apply for work visas or that the farm owners could sponsor them, please take the time to actually look at what it takes to become a US Citizen. A migrant worker would not qualify under our current system because they do not fit the list of specialty occupations that a company can sponsor a worker for and unless they are seeking asylum or marry a US Citizen there are almost no other paths. As for prisoners working in a private sector postition, let’s let the 9%+ unemployment fill those jobs first.


October 10th, 2011
4:24 pm

This is what they do in N.Korea and China. If they want to work, pay a decent wage. If the wages were appropriate people would be lined up for the jobs but as long as slave labor is legal we are closer to being a 3rd World country. Disgusting and I bet it’s a democratic plan. The party of MLK was against forced labor. Remember the Arkansas blood scandle?


October 10th, 2011
5:21 pm


October 10th, 2011
6:34 pm

I am all for inmates working to cover what we pay in taxes to house, medicate, feed and clothe them. This has nothing to do with wanting to “create more criminals for cheap labor” and everything to do with tapping an unused resource of labor to counteract money spent on supporting these criminals. Any yes, these people are someone’s mother, father, son, daughter, niece or nephew but they did the crime and must do the time.

This is not slave labor…do you complain when they are cleaning up trash on the highway or cutting the grass? Of course you don’t. Would you rather continue supporting them with your hard earned money while they live the life of Riley? Of course you don’t. A little manual labor never hurt anyone and just may give some of them some self respect and convince them to not commit a crime again, lest they be “pickin cotton” again, sah!


October 10th, 2011
6:46 pm

Am I missing something here, I was thinking the prisoners are given the “option” if they want to work in the fields or not for a small amount of money. I would not be a bit surprised if most turned it down. They are not requiring them to work, don’t think so.


October 10th, 2011
7:19 pm

“…a Georgia county is planning to use inmates to man fire stations.”

Hmm, not sure I’d want a guy who’s doing time for arson showing up to put out my house fire.


October 10th, 2011
9:16 pm

You are correct Linda. People on here are missing this major point and calling this slavery.


October 11th, 2011
1:43 am

The goverment should have had prisoners working in fields long ago. Don’t let them sit around and do nothing. If they work hard they have no energy to fight and cause problems. When I grew up we lived very close to the prison. The inmates farmed our land for their own food. We were given as much of the crops that we wanted. Let them work. We should have them taking care of all the parks that we have in Georgia.

Sue Jenkins

October 12th, 2011
2:28 pm

This is nothing new. When I grew up in Alabama, prisioners were often used to work on large farms. This was before illegials starting flooding in.

Cheryl Eversole

October 12th, 2011
4:07 pm

I think Prisoners should work and earn their keep, it’s expensive to house and feed the multitudes of prisoners, especially, when you witness the numbers in the USA now behind bars. Picking cotton, onions, pecans, etc., picking up trash, cutting grass, manual labor is one thing, but putting out fires, no thank you….non-violent prisoners should be farmed out for labor, it’s better their back than our tax dollars…maybe some time in the hot sun pickin’ cotton will make them think about the next crime they commit. Might be the answer to all these repeat offenders….


October 12th, 2011
7:00 pm

If they have been screened for mental stability and maybe promised a reduced sentence if they perform well on the job, then this might be fiesable…!!!


October 13th, 2011
1:05 am

1.) I dont agree with “renting” prisoners to private industry, but i think ALL prisons should be totally self sufficent… they should grow thier own crops, raise beef, chicken, pigs, grow cotton to make their own clothes, maintain the prison, recyle the trash, everything. even if one prison was a cotton growing prison and another raised cattle and another grew veggies, they could trade with each other, but the whole system should be self supporting. i see no problem with prisoners doing public work, such as picking up trash on highways or other government work, just not for the private sector. the few dollars a day that the prisoners earn can be put into their commisary accounts to pay for their toothpaste and snacks, lessening the burdon on the families who put money in their accounts monthly for these items.
2.) when my ex was in prison here in texas, he earned about $20 a week and i got it as child support.. of course i never got what all he owed me, but it was better than nothing. I think they should calculate the cost of housing each prisoner and pay them minimum wage, minus a certain percentage to pay back thier housing.
3.) there are already private run juvenile prison here in texas that are in trouble for extending juveniles prison terms to make more money and a judge that was taking kickbacks to send kids who committed relatively minor infractions to the private prison from the owners. i can see this type of abuse would get worse if it were all prisoners. they are already taking away so many of our freedoms, whats next? passing laws against homelessness, lack of heath insurance or unemployment? that would give us even more prisoners for their dirty little work scheme. and of course the official word would be that its totally voluntary.. yet we all know those who didnt want to work would have privledges taken away, sentences extended, harrassment. its just not a good program.


October 13th, 2011
7:35 am

Jesus there really is no pleasing you liberals. In Georgia you can become a full-time career firefighter with a criminal record. This is one of the many ways in which those that have been incarcerated can return to society will a valuable skill set.

Picking cotton….give me a break.The counties have every incentive to build strong families. However it has long been Democratic Party tradition to do everything to destroy the family, and keep as many people in poverty as possible. People in poverty vote for democrats.

Brian Covert

October 13th, 2011
8:18 am

who do you think fights most of the wildland forest fires already?

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