Prison Labor and “Papers Please” in Alabama

Alabama’s harsh “papers please” anti-immigration law, HB56, has left the agriculturally-dependent state of Alabama with a massive shortage of labor to harvest everything from nuts to christmas trees.

Given that HB56 has also impacted other areas of Alabama’s economy, and lead to the arrest of people who aren’t brown, one could make a good case for repealing the law, but Alabama officials are going in a different direction.

The new plan to meet the state’s labor shortage in the wake of HB56 is to replace the former migrant workforce with chain-gangs prison labor.

MIAMI — Alabama farmers have proposed using prisoners to work their fields to replace migrants who fled the state after it passed the country’s harshest anti-immigration law, officials said Tuesday.

The Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industry officials met Tuesday in Mobile with farmers to discuss their proposal, a spokeswoman for the department told AFP. [...]

A statement by the department said the meeting with the farmers was convened “to help solve the chronic labor shortages created by Alabama’s new immigration law.”

There’s so many ethical dilemmas that come to mind when considering this plan I can hardly believe its even being taken seriously.

This isn’t the same as using prisoners to clean the side of public roads on behalf of the state. These prisoners would be working at private, for-profit businesses on behalf of the state.

And who would pay them? Could the citizens of Alabama be funding the workforce of a corporate farm? Are the prisoners subject to standard labor laws?

Should consumers be informed that their peanuts and pecans were harvested by prisoners?

I suppose if the south is allowed to use prison labor to pick their crops on a wide-scale, the next step is claiming the prisoners as private property, and then the south will have finally come full circle.

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  • http://www.politicalruminations.com/ nicole

    I suppose if the south is allowed to use prison labor to pick their crops on a wide-scale, the next step is claiming the prisoners as private property, and then the south will have finally come full circle.

    FTW.

    • GrafZeppelin127

      What a horrifying thought. Trenchant, but horrifying nonetheless.

      • http://www.politicalruminations.com/ nicole

        indeed.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_YM23FX2FBZEC3UVDPZRGCUBIZ4 staci

    We could let the warden of Shawshank run the program. /snark

  • andrewdski

    I knew this sounded familiar. Check out Bob Rutledge’s comment here:

    http://bobcesca.com/blog-archives/2011/11/fail-of-the-day.html#comment-364141571

    This is all a bit depressing.

    • http://phydeauxpseaks.blogspot.com Bob Rutledge

      I was just gonna hunt that down. Thanks for saving me the trouble.

      It was just the inevitable conclusion. I am NOT a Repellican mole. ;)

  • D_C_Wilson

    I’m sure giving convicted felons saws and sending them out into the field to cut down Christmas trees will not cause any problems. I mean, so they have sharp implements and a history of violent behavior. What could possibly go wrong?

  • Username1016

    Wow, remember the part in Gone With The Wind (the book; I’m not a big fan of the movie) where Scarlett decided to use prison labor to replace her SLAVES after the war? The whole episode serving to show how completely morally bankrupt she was?

    Ahem.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kevin-Danjou/1389064778 Kevin Danjou

    I can’t effing believe there is a discussion about using prisoners on a for profit farm operation. What fucking bullshit!

    Don’t get me wrong, if there are roads that need to be cleaned, ditches dug, grass moved, etc. Ask for volunteers, Gee, working outside in the sun, or in a concrete cell all day….let me think on that one for a minute.

    If the citizens benefit from the use of labor provided by prisoners, that are cared for at the expense of citizens tax dollars, I really don’t care.

    Providing a farm or farm operation free labor to pick their crops without providing revenue back to the state penal budget or back to the tax payers….BULLSHIT.