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Prison labor in the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida is famous.

I have written about it many times.  I call it OnShore Manufacturing Cheap/Free Labor.

Watching Anderson Cooper and others unable to get a peep out of the "beach cleaners" got me to thinking.  I concluded that it is quite possible/probable that those were inmates doing the work.  Of course they won't talk to anyone, if so.  Certainly not the inmates of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana!

So what, you may say.  Who cares?  Well, if no one cares then this country has already gone to hell, that's what!   That BP crap is toxic and who knows how unhealthy it is mixed with the Corexit.

Besides which, the quick way the lower income people are jailed these days, it could be you or your little sister or brother forced out in that heat to pick up that crap.

We have to care or, sooner or later, it will be you and/or me on that beach.

Many Valdez workers died slow, horrible deaths.  Isn't this why we are all not down there picking up tarballs?

This could be a revenue windfall for the states' correction facilities.  They can charge BP whatever $$/hr. for inmate labor.

The states have boasted about how wonderful free prison labor is for them for years.  

Here's Florida:

In total, these Community Work Squads (inmate labor) performed 6,388,034 hours of work valued at more than $64.2 million, and after costs, provided the citizens of Florida with a net cost savings/value added of $35.1 million.

Through the process of making these inmate work squads available to other governmental agencies and non-profit organizations the Department is able to assist these outside entities with their needs while continuing to fulfill its mission of providing an efficient corrections system for the citizens of Florida.

Or, conversely, if Florida charges BP (and BP is forced to pay) the full labor rate, Florida can charge enough to pay down their prison debt for years.


This piece of what we used to enjoy as journalism is nothing short of jaw dropping.  

With Jobs to Do, Louisiana Parish Turns to Inmates, New York Times

Many people here in East Carroll Parish, as Louisiana counties are known, say they could not get by without their inmates, who make up more than 10 percent of its population and most of its labor force. They are dirt-cheap, sometimes free, always compliant, ever-ready and disposable


National prison experts say that only Louisiana allows citizens to use inmate labor on such a widespread scale, under the supervision of local sheriffs. The state has the nation's highest incarceration rate

They build dugouts and tend the athletic fields — free — at Briarfield Academy, a private school here. "They did an excellent job," said the school's principal, Morris Richardson, adding, "We try to provide their lunch for them."

The churches, too, are grateful beneficiaries. "They sent me prisoners for a month" for menial chores at the First Baptist Church, said Reynold Minsky, also chairman of the local levee board. "All completely free," Mr. Minsky added. "It's a real good deal. Everybody is tickled."

Many here view the inmates essentially as commodities, who can be returned behind bars after the agricultural season is over, and the need for labor is reduced.

"Good thing about it, wintertime, you can lock them up — put them in cold storage," said Billy Travis, a farmer and police juror, as county commissioners here are known. "I call it deep freeze."

Why do I suspect this is how it is done everywhere?  Non-profits getting free prisoner labor?  It's not free.  You and I pay for prisoners through our taxes, or so it used to be.  Anyone?


March 18, 2009

Alabama raising rates for inmate work squad labor. State get $15 a day. Prisoners get $2.

This year, there is a $43.3 million difference in the funding the corrections department gets from the state of Alabama and the amount it takes to run the system.

The department narrows the gap by charging for inmate squad labor, raising revenue through the prison work release program and other steps.

On Oct. 1, the start of fiscal 2010, the rate will increase from $10 per inmate, per day to $15.

ALDOT officials said they understand the need for increasing the fees.

"We have been talking about it," said ALDOT director Joe McInnes. "But whatever it is, it's going to be about 55 percent savings for us. It's going to be about 45 percent of what we are paying outside contractors now. Obviously they're looking for ways to increase their resources, and we need their help, and ... with this kind of savings, we think it's a good deal if we can get them to do more of this kind of work for us."

Corrections Commissioner Richard Allen has estimated that the new rates will bring in about $3 million each year.

Most Alabama correctional facilities employ the inmates.  You can peruse here for the breakdown:

Ok, as an aside, this is an elephant in the room.  The states are all falling short on their revenues, are receiving lots of stimulus money for shovel ready projects, and CAN SAVE A BUNDLE BY HAVING THEIR PRISONERS DO THE WORK, not the unemployed.

When the hell are you all going to start going ballistic?

And, lastly, Mississippi:

Community Work Centers

Listing of  Community Work Centers  

Community work centers are an alternative facility for inmates to finish serving their sentences.   At a community work center, inmates routinely perform work for cities, counties, state agencies and charitable organizations as defined by 501(c)3,  and are a valuable source of free labor.  Examples of work performed include janitorial work, mechanic work and beautification of roadsides.  It is common to see MDOC inmates picking up trash on the highways of Mississippi or at city and state parks.

MDOC currently has 17 community work centers statewide and each houses around 100 inmates.  The community work center in Flowood houses all female community work center inmates, which is about 100 inmates.  Inmates are drug tested often and failing a drug test is automatic return to an institution.

How does an inmate get assigned to a community work center?  First, several criteria must be met.  They include, but are not limited to:

Inmates must be within seven years of their earliest release date

Inmates must pass a drug and alcohol test

Inmates must be able to physically perform required work

Inmates must me free of rule violations for six month

So, based on the history of inmate labor in these states, in their own words, I think a suspicion that the "beach cleaners" that won't utter a peep to anyone are inmates.  Inmates that could provide a profit for those charged with their care.

Can sick get any sicker?  Well, we will find out if/when they become sick...or maybe we won't ever know.  

Maybe the suspected inmate laborers are being used as the "CANARIES IN THE CAGE?" know, it really really really makes me sad that people are not valued, especially those unfortunate to be born into a down trodden family in states so morally bankrupt as so-called Christain Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florda.  Christian?  Jesus must be quite ashamed of them.

Originally posted to War on Error on Sat Jun 12, 2010 at 05:36 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (13+ / 0-)

    It's difficult to be happy knowing so many suffer. We must unite.

    by War on Error on Sat Jun 12, 2010 at 05:36:04 PM PDT

    •  Slim evidence (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mataliandy, emmasnacker, TurkeyCreek

       You think the cleaners might be inmates because they won't talk to Anderson Cooper?  That's pretty flimsy evidence.  You didn't mention what they're wearing.  Are they wearing orange jumpsuits?  Are they wearing black & white striped outfits?  That's what prison workers here in Alabama wear - and the outfits have something stencilled on the back to identify them as inmates.
       Please give more evidence than the fact that they wouldn't talk to a reporter.

      •  Did you see the question mark in the title? (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        mataliandy, churchylafemme, Knarfc

        Based on the use of inmates for labor in these states, I posit that it is very possible they are inmates.

        And of course the states aren't going to flaunt it if they are with orange prison costumes.

        I hope a journalist with some resources will track this down and find out.

        I think it is a very important question.

        •  A question mark - that makes it okay (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          mataliandy, TurkeyCreek

           That's right, you're just asking a question.  Isn't that what we complain about Fox doing so often?  

           And yes, they WILL be wearing the uniforms to identify them as prisoners.  That's a safety precaution - it deters them from trying to escape.

           You have no evidence.  None, zero, zilch.  That a person won't speak to a reporter does not make him a prison inmate.

          •  Person over seen by: (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            The National Guard

            A security team wearing blue shirts

            and another

            Security team wearing black shirts

            while the "beach cleaners" get on and off the school busses used to transport them.

            Yup, you typical ManPower work team.

            Get real.

            •  Review your evidence (0+ / 0-)

               The National Guard does not oversee prison workers.  They were at with the federal wildlife workers and securing the bird station.

               The blue shirts seemed to have a triangle logo - can you identify that as city, county, or state law enforcement or penal system officials?  The black shirts - were there any logos at all?  It's just not the practice of prisoner work systems to go undercover.  It's a security risk.  The very premise doesn't make sense.

              •  Evidence (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                mataliandy, emmasnacker, War on Error

                 The news report and video you linked to elsewhere are about Louisiana.  But there's no solid evidence in the videos.  If you're really interested, do a google search.  What I found is below.  It doesn't mean that the people in the video were inmates, but it is true Alabama and Louisiana are using inmates.  But read the articles, there are a lot more than just inmates doing the clean-up.

                Alabama is using inmates.  There's no secrect about it - it was reported two weeks ago.

                Louisiana is using inmates.  Again, there's no secret about it - it was reported a month ago.  These workers in this article, however, are preparing sandbags, not cleaning up beaches.  And the National Guard members are working with them, not guarding them.  Notice also that the inmates are wear labels identifying them as such.

                In Port Fourchon, Louisiana, fatigue-clad Army National Guard troops from the 769th Engineer Battalion of Louisiana sweated alongside prisoners in scarlet red pants and white T-shirts with "Inmate Labor" on the back as they filled giant 1,000-pound (450 kg) sandbags.

                 In short, you are right that prison workers are being used, but the video from Anderson Cooper is not what proves it.  It might have gotten people to ask the question, but it was other evidence that showed it's true.  And the jury is still out on whether that particular group in the video are prison workers or not.

            •  I remember hearing (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              War on Error, We Want Change

              that they would be using prisoners in LA I believe it was but it could have been in AL.  They're big on this down here in the South.  We have prison work crews here in Florida that cut the grass on the sides of the roads.  

              ~War is Peace~Freedom is Slavery~Ignorance is Strength~ George Orwell "1984"

              by Kristina40 on Sat Jun 12, 2010 at 06:24:53 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  I don't (0+ / 0-)

          what is wrong with prisoners helping others instead of just lifting weights?  Plus, the question mark does not change a thing, it is a cop out, your entire diary is about "abusing" prisoners by making them work.  Certainly helping their fellow man, if it is happening is better than breaking rocks.

    •  I don't agree (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      AaronInSanDiego, War on Error

      but I agree with your perspective.  

      Ninety-nine percent of prison inmates are going to be released one day and we damn-well ought to be investing in their futures if we expect them to remain crime-free.  Those who would willingly treat them like animals for years and then expect them to emerge as gentlemen are terribly misguided, perhaps not unintentionally.

      And it's all become horribly political as candidates attempt to out-law-'n-order each other.  We imprison 10 times as many as we did not too many years ago (and are going broke doing it), yet no one has the courage to endorse a new approach to sentencing/parole which will lower the prison population.  Case in point...

      I used to be Snow White...but I drifted.

      by john07801 on Sat Jun 12, 2010 at 06:49:36 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  If so, then the prison industry's Rent-a-Slave (0+ / 0-)

      program has sunk to new levels of depravity. Let's hope people in jail for offenses (often ranging from traffic violations to larceny) are not being used as disposable toxin sponges.

  •  Pay them a semi decent wage-- (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Maybe minimum wage, to be given to them when they get out and I don't have that big a problem with it.  As long as the prisoners get PAID.

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White

    by zenbassoon on Sat Jun 12, 2010 at 05:40:05 PM PDT

    •  That's just it. They DON'T (7+ / 0-)

      Here's how prisoners who fight forest fires and save million dollar homes in California are paid:

      They're the unsung heroes in fighting Southern California's wildfires — and they're convicted felons.

      "We save million-dollar homes for a dollar an hour," said Ricky Frank, 33, doing a 10-year stretch for theft. "You get to help people. It's better doing this than being locked up."

      More than half of the state's 3,800 full-time wildland firefighters are prison inmates earning $1 an hour as they work off sentences for nonviolent crimes such as theft and drug possession.

  •  while we're at it. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Give them cable and a sauna and some decent food too.

    •  It's heartlessness like this that is (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Hayate Yagami

      flushing our country down the cosmic toilet.

      The toxins are taken in through the skin.

      But, hey, some kid born into poverty in Louisianna and never treated with any dignity by people who make remarks like yours, is to be loathed because he was caught with a nickel bag of pot and jailed for years.

      It's gone too far.  And you are becoming just as much at risk if it goes much further.

      •  funny (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I was born poor and I've never been arrested.  I was never treated with dignity.  Weird how staying out of trouble keeps you out of jail.  And I don't get this 'oh it's getting really bad, soon we''ll all be in jail'.  refrain.  I've been hearing that since the 60s.

  •  Do you have any evidence (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Augustine, gchaucer2, TurkeyCreek, beltane

    these are inmates?

    Just wondering...

    •  No, nor is there evidence they are not (0+ / 0-)

      I am raising the question because


      I mean, really, how hard is it to follow their cars/vans to find out where these "beach clearners" end up at the end of the day.

      •  Absolutely ridiculous (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Miss Blue, TurkeyCreek, nickrud

         I'm sorry, but "there's no evidence they're not" is a ridiculous answer.  Inmates on work release like this wear uniforms that identify them as inmates.  If these people were in street clothes, they are not inmates.  You need evidence supporting your claim, not a lack of evidence disproving it.

        •  Absolutely ridiculous (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          that you are so up in arms over the question I raise.

          Yeah, these "citizens" needed armed guards to keep the press away:

          Workers with their arms over their heads at minute 2:11

          "Security Guards" at minute 2:30

          Bused in and out with school buses?

          Um.....yup, just a bunch of civilians working the beach clean up.

          •  Not much better (0+ / 0-)

             First, your initial diary has NO evidence to support your claim.  
             Second, the point of the report by Anderson Cooper was the secrecy of BP and the clean-up effort in general.  He pointed out that even the federal wildlife officials wouldn't talk.

             The video is interesting.  The buses have a black bar where there would normally be the name of the school, company, or insitution that runs it.  But my experience of seeing prison work crews in Mobile County, AL (where the oil is hitting) is that they are not hidden.  This worksite is in Lousiana, and the security guards are odd, but not identified as city, sheriff, or state law enforcement, which would be even stranger.  That they deny who they work for sounds more like a BP command than a penal system command.

             As for the "workers with their arms raised over their heads", notice that no one is searching them.  They're not in an organized line and aren't facing the same direction.  The two I could see doing that seemed to have their hands on a beam and were leaning on it.  One even had what appears to be a small cooler hanging from his shoulder.

             While there are curious things about the video, it's hardly conclusive evidence.  I think it says more about how secretive BP is trying to be than suggesting prison workers.

          •  I don't see it (0+ / 0-)

            If there were prisoners on any scale proportional to the task and benefit to the jailers, they would be clearly labeled with identifiable (if not identified) uniform dress.  

            There would also be noticeable supervision, perhaps not on par with Cool Hand Luke, but they would look similar to cops.

            That being said, the south has freely taken advantage of the 13th Amendment: "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States..."

            AIUI, this doesn't happen in northern states: inmates are  allowed the option of working (making money, getting out, getting exercise, etc.) or sitting in their cement-block box.

            I used to be Snow White...but I drifted.

            by john07801 on Sat Jun 12, 2010 at 06:27:00 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  you are the one up in arms (0+ / 0-)

            about a story you made up.  I think you need a drink or something.

          •  Arms over head at 2:11, (0+ / 0-)

            all I saw was a guy holding a tent up. I'm not saying you're wrong and the total silence from workers has to be from some sort of intimidation.

          •  I have an idea. (0+ / 0-)

            these "citizens" needed armed guards to keep the press away

            There's always a chance the sick and injured wildlife will turn on the clean up workers and attack them. So they need protection, not from the unarmed and healthy press, but from the unarmed and unhealthy wildlife. Some of that wildlife are birds. And some of those birds have beaks.

            No, that doesn't make sense either, does it?

            I see I need to work more on my idea.

  •  Selective Christianity. (6+ / 0-)

    According to Jesus, it doesn't end well:  Matthew 25: 31-46.

    Authentic Native American silverwork, jewelry, photography, and other art here.

    by Aji on Sat Jun 12, 2010 at 05:45:10 PM PDT

  •  I'm not seeing any actual (5+ / 0-)

    evidence that the prisoners are being used as labor.  And if they are, no evidence of work conditions.

    During the Calfornia Wildfires several years ago, prisoners were trained and used on the fireline.  The firefighters depended on these men and praised them for dedication under stressful conditions.  

    I have no problem with prison labor being used to clean up the environment as long as they and every other worker is given proper training and equipment.

    •  and pay (0+ / 0-)

      or else it's just slave labor.
      They worked for it, they earned it, they deserve it.

      •  I disagree (3+ / 0-)

        I do think the pay scale needs to be changed.  I know they are paid little to nothing and then charged room and board fees, which is ridiculous.

        But these people have been convicted of a crime.  I would prefer to see them paid a reasonable fee, no r&b, but the balance of what the state is paid for their labor should be put into rehab/educational/vocational training so they are employable when they are released.

        I realize in a perfect world this would be done irregardless, but that is not the way it is now.  At least the compensation for the labor they provide should go into making these folks employable upon release.

        Silence is the enemy - Green Day 4360+ dead - Bring them home -8.00,-5.79

        by Miss Blue on Sat Jun 12, 2010 at 06:04:16 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Speaking of California 1/2 FF are inmates (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      We Want Change

      More than half of the state's 3,800 full-time wildland firefighters are prison inmates earning $1 an hour

      On the day the fire in San Bernadino County flared into a wind-whipped monster, however, residents there caught a rare glimpse of the prisoners in the unusual role of trying to protect houses.

      The inmate crews are neither trained nor equipped for fighting house fires. But a 28-inmate strike team happened to be one of the first to arrive. They grabbed garden hoses and borrowed chain saws from homeowners. Burglars and thieves risked their lives to rescue prized possessions from doomed homes.

      "The ceilings and light fixtures were coming down around us. You're wondering if you'll have to go out a window" to escape, said Greg Welch, 34, serving seven years for selling drugs. "It was chaos."

      •  The inmates are trained (5+ / 0-)

        for forest fires.  This group appears to have voluntarily taken on the responsibility of a house fire in the midst of a raging wildfire.

        I've read about these men and they volunteer for this program.  They want to learn a skill, do something positive and get the hell outside of the prison to earn some self-respect.  

      •  Hmmmm a problem apparently you are overlooking (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Miss Blue

        with your little atricle here.....

        The ceilings and light fixtures were coming down around us. You're wondering if you'll have to go out a window" to escape, said Greg Welch, 34, serving seven years for selling drugs. "It was chaos."

        If they were outside fighting wildfires, how were ceilings and light fixtures coming down around them? I personally have no problems with using inmates to assist with this unatural disaster. I notice you are not concerned with the short wearing and short sleaved volunteers and their exposure. Inmates must volunteer for something like this and cannot as you referred to it be "slave labor" Inmate pay is low but then so are their living expenses, and in the process they are repaying a debt to society. If they are from local jails then they are also fighting to save their enviorments as well. However their is nothing to suggest that this is inmate labor. The biggest glaring discrepancy in your diary is your conclusion that these are prisoners, especially since you convieantly present your arguement lacking one very necessary credable observation that would have been obvious if it were inmates as you imply. Where were the overseers (aka prison guards or sheriff's deputies).

        I get along just fine with God. It's his fan club I have significant problems with.

        by utopia on Sat Jun 12, 2010 at 06:05:14 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •   (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          We Want Change, soothsayer99

          Yeah, these "citizens" needed armed guards to keep the press away:

          Workers with their arms over their heads at minute 2:11

          "Security Guards" at minute 2:30

          Bused in and out with school buses?

          Um.....yup, just a bunch of civilians working the beach clean up.

          That's why we have the National Guard, they guys in the blue shirts, and the guys in the black shirts overseeing the "beach cleaners" protect these civilian workers from the press and Anderson Cooper.

          Next, they will come for you, but you think that can never happen.

          Volunteer.....or what?

          I am not saying they are inmates, I am asking the question.


    •  C'mon... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Silent Lurker

      if BP is telling fishermen they will be let go for putting on respirators, you seriously think that a system that rents out inmates at about 40 cents an hour is going to issue proper training and equipment?

  •  I'm not sure there's any evidence of any (5+ / 0-)

    work being done period.

    This sig-line demands a jobs program in the Gulf...immediately!

    by reddbierd on Sat Jun 12, 2010 at 06:00:27 PM PDT

  •  This is going to blow your mind... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    We Want Change

    I think you stumbled onto something.

    It's called Louisiana Prison Enterprises.

    Here's an audit from about 1997.  Notice the names of the legislative audit advisory council.  That last name should be familiar (David Vitter).

    Here are some relevant findings:

    Louisiana Prison Enterprises is a division of the Department of Public Safety and
    Corrections. For fiscal year 1995, the agency sold more than $21.1 million in goods
    and services.

    That is 21 million in revenues -- in a single year.  What were their labor costs?  One of their public/private partnerships generated these numbers:

    Since September 1994 when operations began, inmates working in Louisiana's Prison Industries Enhancement program have contributed nearly $181,000, or about 50 percent of total wages
    earned, in taxes, room and board, and victims' compensation.

    Inmate workers in Prison Industries Enhancement programs in other states have contributed about 68 percent of gross wages.

    So even the wages the men get is being taken back...but only 50% compared to 68% in other states.

    Here's one example to see how much money the state is seeing for this labor:

    In December 1992, Louisiana Prison Enterprises' current cooperative endeavor agreement became effective. Under this agreement, Louisiana Prison Enterprises provides approximately 240 inmates per day to process chicken (three shifts of approximately 80 inmates per shift per day). For fiscal year 1996, this private company paid Louisiana Prison Enterprises $237.95 per shift.

    That works out to about $2.97 per man per shift.  Assuming 8 hour shifts, the chicken farmers paid about 37 cents an hour.  If they were generous and included two 15 minute breaks and a half hour for meal... then they were paying 42 cents an hour.

    Do I think you may be right? Hell yeah!  Guys get time off their sentence for working in these programs (double goodtime).  If you are looking at a 15 year stretch, and you could knock off a couple years this way... you might be willing to do it.  Especially if you didn't know about the risks.

  •  Makes sense. BP with help from GOP in LA (0+ / 0-)

    would help to cover up this fact. Good diary.

    "About that Hopey Changey Thing" --Change takes Courage.

    by We Want Change on Sat Jun 12, 2010 at 09:49:11 PM PDT

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