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Old 06-08-2019, 08:42 PM
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Default No Migrants to do Field Work? Try inmates!

How Anti-Immigration Policies Are Leading Prisons to Lease Convicts as Field Laborers

"Historically, agriculture has suppressed wages—and eschewed worker protections—by hiring from vulnerable groups, notably, undocumented migrants. By some estimates, 70 percent of agriculture's 1.2 million workers are undocumented.
As current anti-immigrant policies diminish the supply of migrant workers (both documented and undocumented), farmers are not able to find the labor they need. So, in states such as Arizona, Idaho, and Washington that grow labor-intensive crops like onions, apples, and tomatoes, prison systems have responded by leasing convicts to growers desperate for workers."

If you voted for our current administration-- did this occur to you? Or did you think that American employers would raise wages and pass the increase on to consumers? I'm genuinely curious if this is actually played out to the end when people vote and it makes me angry. I live in a big stretch of ag where field workers cross to work every year. Anti-immigration support and scare tactics have depleted the labor force and now they're coming after your loved one. Sure, we could argue that some job is better than none as an inmate. But there's a huge difference between an AT&T call center and the middle of a scorching hot field of romaine, toxic sprays and biting insects. I promise you that.

Last edited by miamac; 06-08-2019 at 08:50 PM..
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Old 06-08-2019, 09:03 PM
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I suddenly got this picture in my head of slaves in the field and "The Master," whip in hand, overseeing the workers. Inexperienced inmates will find it difficult, if not impossible, to replace the seasoned migrant workers in the fields.
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Old 06-08-2019, 09:14 PM
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This portion stood out to me and please edit the quote if need be:

"Beyond the unfairness of low wages, inadequate state and federal regulations ensure that agricultural work continues to be onerous. Laborers endure long hours, repetitive motion injuries, temperature and humidity extremes, and exposure to caustic and carcinogenic chemicals.

For inmates, these circumstances are unlikely to change. United States courts have ruled that prisoners are prohibited from organizing for higher wages and working conditions—though strikes have occurred in recent years.

Furthermore, inmates are not legally considered employees, which means they are excluded from protection under parts of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the Equal Pay Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, the National Labor Relations Act, and the Federal Tort Claims Act."


In South Carolina where agriculture is vital to our state's economy, I see the abuse of free labor and lack of accountability in fairly managing how we can resolve one need for another. Yes, if we don't have the those to do the work, using offenders to make do would seem reasonable yet will states be open to compensating (wages and work credits for time served) those who are incarcerated justly?
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Old 06-08-2019, 09:17 PM
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Originally Posted by patchouli View Post
I suddenly got this picture in my head of slaves in the field and "The Master," whip in hand, overseeing the workers. Inexperienced inmates will find it difficult, if not impossible, to replace the seasoned migrant workers in the fields.
I'm dreading the headline "Arizona inmate dies while working field job". I know I keep repeating it, but I think unless you've done it or know someone who has, it can't be stressed enough-- this is extremely physical work in extreme environments. I have so many questions like-- what type of protections do they have because the tools required to do the job can injure. Are they given appropriate clothing to protect them from the sun? Do they receive an increased calorie count diet to make up for the work? Ugh. This is just bad.
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Old 06-08-2019, 09:21 PM
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Yes growing up in a migrant community, I have relatives who worked along side those whose families traveled from Mexico annually or later relocated here, to work the fields every summer. South Carolina summers are very unforgiving and to work from sunrise to sunset picking vegetables is grueling.
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Old 06-08-2019, 09:26 PM
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"Most wages paid to inmates are garnished by prisons to cover incarceration costs and pay victim restitution programs. In some cases, prisoners see no monetary compensation whatsoever. In 2015 and 2016, the California Prison Industry Authority made over $2 million from its food and agriculture sector."
My husband would like a PIA job because it makes a little more money than the job he has now. The job open to him? HAZMAT. So when someone gets their belly sliced open and bleeds all over the floor, they'd pay him $3 to come and clean it up.

"Proponents of "prison industries" argue that leasing provides rehabilitative benefits like on-the-job training for re-entry. But research shows that, within the prison system, whites receive better jobs than blacks, with better pay and more beneficial skills."

And in areas where ag is huge, like AZ, you'll see this played out with Latinos and MoC being put in the fields because they are the majority in prison here.

"Whereas migrant workers often benefit home communities by returning a portion of their wages as remittances, the garnishing or non-payment of convict wages prevents inmates from contributing to their families and home economies."

So we lock up undocumented persons (money for private prison industries) leading to a shortage of labor. We then "employ" inmates who have little to no protection as laborers, pay them even less, skim the top of their wages for incarceration costs (more money for prison investors, industry contracts) and stop the flow of monies into already poor and struggling communities. Sounds like a MAGA plan if I ever heard one.
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Old 06-09-2019, 07:53 AM
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This is the first paragraph from a google search for "prisoners as slaves".

The current state of prison labor in the United States has distinct roots in the slavery-era economy and society. With the passage of the 13th amendment in 1865, slavery was deemed unconstitutional with the exception of slavery as punishment for a crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.
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Old 06-09-2019, 08:11 AM
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While I dont know about this from the aspect of an inmate working the fields, I do know from a parolee working them.
My hub worked in the vineyards for approx a year. He worked all different hrs. Much of it at night especially during the hot summer months. According to him, they were not allowed to work if the temps got over a certain temp they would be done for the day and try to reschedule for overnights instead.
However this was not working for cdcr.
Hub said it was very hard work when he was trying to keep up with the other workers. Mostly hispanic coworkers.
He was only one white working, with the exception of the boss.


I do know also that they use inmates to assist in fire control/prevention. Grueling work as well, but at least they do get some credit toward their sentence.
They dangle the........you can get a job after prison as a firefighter. Not so.....or if it is its VERY rare. They wont hire most with a felony conviction.
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Old 06-09-2019, 09:38 PM
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While I dont know about this from the aspect of an inmate working the fields, I do know from a parolee working them.
My hub worked in the vineyards for approx a year. He worked all different hrs. Much of it at night especially during the hot summer months. According to him, they were not allowed to work if the temps got over a certain temp they would be done for the day and try to reschedule for overnights instead.
I wish they could do that here. Our workers who cross every day come in around 1am, get on their field bus and go to work by 3 or 4. They're bussed back to the border around 3 in the afternoon. Next week we'll be 110 during the day. If Border Patrol pulls them into secondary, it can make them late for their bus and they miss a day's pay.

I'm not against folks working, but there's working and there's exploitation and I think when we're talking migrants and inmates, it's by degrees of separation.

And kudos to your husband-- it's insanely difficult work. But I value his opinion more for having done it than all of the screaming anti-immigration folks so far removed from the actual border involved in contemporary border politics that it's almost bizarre to hear their arguments. I guess that means if Canadians were to ever start flooding our nation, I hope that we listen to the folks living in Detroit and North Dakota a lot more than we're listening to those governing in AZ, CA and TX who understand the nuance of our communities.
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