Alabama Prisoners Might Work the Farms
Thursday, December 08, 2011
With a shortage of available farm workers, thanks to the state’s anti-illegal immigrant law, Alabama may use prisoners to pick crops.
Farmers are pushing the idea to state agricultural officials, arguing they need someone to help harvest fields following the exodus of Hispanics from the state. Immigrants fled Alabama after lawmakers adopted HB56, which requires local police to verify the immigration status of anyone reasonably suspected of being in the country illegally.
Prior to the law’s passage, the state had about 120,000 undocumented immigrants. Now, no one knows for sure how many stuck around to risk being deported if caught by authorities.
With planting season fast approaching, the farmers proposed to the state that work-release inmates be put in the fields to pick crops. But prison spokesman Brian Corbett said the state only has 2,000 work-release prisoners and most of them already have jobs.
There are currently no plans for Alabama to revive the use of chain gangs, which it re-embraced in 1995, 30 years after every state had abandoned the practice. But back then, Alabama Prison Commissioner Ron Jones said chain-gangs were practically a humanitarian necessity if prisoners were used to do work outdoors. “We have guards armed with shotguns loaded with double-aught buckshot, and are obligated by law to shoot if a prisoner tried to escape,” Jones explained. “I don't want a lot of them shot full of holes, with a bunch of medical bills and bad publicity.” If the men on the chain gang run, he said, “they won't run far.”
Alabama banned chain gangs the next year.
Alabama Farmers Look to Replace Migrants with Prisoners (Agence France-Presse)
Chain Gangs to Return To Roads of Alabama (by Rick Bragg, New York Times)
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