Tuesday, March 06, 2007

An insatiable appetite for kicking people around

On Sunday, the New York Times reported that farmers in Colorado will replace migrant workers, who left the state after tough new immigration restrictions were put into place, with prisoners. Now, there's probably something to be said for prisoners having the opportunity to be outside and doing something that keeps them active.

But here's the kicker: The prisoners' pay for a day's work in the fields? $.60 per day. This program bears a strange resemblance to another former government program.

This program, if done right, could actually be a good thing for the prisoners. They have an opportunity to get out of the jail and put their energy into something productive. If they would be paid a reasonable wage, even minimum wage, it would give them an opportunity to sock away some money in preparation for their release. (See this op-ed from Sunday's Patriot News on what ex-offenders face when they leave prison.)

But paying them $.60 a day is just exploitative.

Andy in Harrisburg

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Blogger Atheism Quotes said...

I'm impressed.

We're going from using immigrant labor as NEAR slave labor to using prisoners as ACTUAL slave labor.

Ain't life grand?

I know in prison, inmates get paid pennies while working. Does anyone know what the reasoning is that allows it to be so tiny? For that matter, why pay them at all if they're going to pay something so tiny?

Is there a law that requires compensation for work, but is exempt from minimum wage laws?

9:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Colorado move evokes memories of my childhood in Texas during the 40's and 50's, from which period I still remember roadside prison gangs doing road maintenance or agricultural field work. Some were chained together but most were allowed to move about unfettered. Always overseeing them were a couple of guards on horseback with a rifle or shotgun, presumably loaded, lying across the saddle. The guards also carried a pistol on their belt and a coiled whip on the side of their saddles. When I think back now, the image is almost like something out of the dark ages. Oh, and as one might expect, the work crews were segregated, either all black or all white, and never mixed. The guards, however, were always white. It was a nice world I grew up in.

4:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To answer the question as to why they get so little, I think the state charges the farmer a "fair wage" (at least minimum for agracultural workers) and then subtracts "room and board" for the prisioners.

I don't think economic migrants (farm workers or otherwise) are paid much, but I bet they are paid much better than what the term slave wages implies. After all, if they were willing to work for SLAVE wages they wouldn't have to go to the bother of coming here!

1:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think its great for prisoners to work to serve /give back the community they hurt with their crime; another way to make amends. No one gets paid for community service so I don't think they should get paid either. Sitting in jail doing nothing doesn't help rehabilitate them either, work might. Or give them credits to use for college or housing when they get out. They don't get enough financial help when they get out so they end up right back in. Maybe we could stop giving medicaid to illegals... and use the money to rehab our criminals?

11:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Since when did "illegals" qualify for medicade? In any case a hard working, honest, economic migrant is more deserving of it than is a criminal, who has actively gone out of his way to hurt his fellow man.

That's not to say that the criminal should be shut out. Basicly there isn't a moral connection between the two, so one should not be hurt for the other.

Personally, I don't see anything ethically wrong with charging the criminal for room and board, but from a policy point of view, I think it would make more sence to let them keep what they earn. It would aid their rehabilitation.

After all, isn't rehabilitation what prison is all about? :^)

1:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The comparison to slavery is ludicrous, as the prisoners do their work voluntarily. This is just another sour grapes criticism by the maudling press who generally support illegal immigration. The fact is that prisoners all over the country have worked for years in prison shops making everything from furniture for government offices to electrical cables for the DoD. Of course, the 5th Estate wouldn't think of pointing this out when it would ruin a good story.

10:51 PM  

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