Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 31, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

BRING BACK THE CHAIN GANGS!....Dana Rohrabacher, the insane congressman in the district immediately north of me, suggested yesterday that even if we cut off illegal immigration completely we'd still have a large and cheap labor force available to pick our strawberries for us. "Let the prisoners pick the fruits," he said.

Naturally I just discounted this as the ravings of a madman, but then TChris planted a thought in my mind: does this mean that maybe Jack Abramoff might be sent out to the fields for 10 hours per day of backbreaking work in the blazing sun for the next five years and ten months? And maybe Scooter Libby and Tom DeLay too? And you never know could even Karl Rove find himself on the business end of a short handled hoe in El Centro if Patrick Fitzgerald ever manages to make sense out of all those missing White House emails?

Maybe Dana is actually onto something this time.

UPDATE: Oh, and Tony Rudy too.

Kevin Drum 12:34 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (115)

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Comments

Oh that would be sweeet. Then again with how dirty that crew is I would want double assurances that the fruit was properly cleaned afterwards.

Posted by: Dreggas on March 31, 2006 at 12:38 PM | PERMALINK

In a better world, even the Georgling might find himself pulling more brush than he bargained for -- even when tv cameras weren't around.

Posted by: penalcolony on March 31, 2006 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

Democrat Cynthia McKinney could pick strawberries, too!

Posted by: BigRiver on March 31, 2006 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

I can almost hear them all singing Swing Low Sweet Chariot now being led by the singing senators....

Posted by: Dreggas on March 31, 2006 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

Well, in all seriousness, is it really such a bad idea to have prisoners working instead of sitting around watching TV? They'll be a lot less likely to re-enter if they learn job skills while they're in prison.

Posted by: MDS on March 31, 2006 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

Speaking of dirty...

When you use convict labor to harvest strawberries or other produce, what do you do when the convicts damage or foul the goods? Send them to prison?

And if we use convicts to harvest produce, won't that make it difficult to sell that produce abroad?

Posted by: Wapiti on March 31, 2006 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

All the fruits thus packaged should be labeled 'hand picked and packed by Republican convicts'.

Posted by: lib on March 31, 2006 at 12:44 PM | PERMALINK

Good one, bigriver. Moving around a Capitol hill cop when one has every right to do so is exactly on par with what those other cretins have done.

Posted by: Ace Franze on March 31, 2006 at 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

Well, in all seriousness, is it really such a bad idea to have prisoners working instead of sitting around watching TV? They'll be a lot less likely to re-enter if they learn job skills while they're in prison.

Posted by: MDS on March 31, 2006 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

Honestly I agree wholeheartedly and believe there should be more of these programs out there using convict labor.

Posted by: Dreggas on March 31, 2006 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

Can't you see this is just another example of corporate welfare? Will the fruit growers be paying the prisoners minimum wage? Will they pay the government? Congressman Rohrabacher is trying to get elected again.

Posted by: Lamonte on March 31, 2006 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

I believe all Christian, hetero, white, Republican males should be compelled to work off their ill gotten gains as debt through some sort of cultural revolution/re-education programs.

Posted by: Freedom Fighter on March 31, 2006 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

Sounds like a good plan to me. This should lower inflation and the price of goods because labor costs will be lower so prices of goods will be cheaper for ordinary workers. So what can be wrong with the plan?

Posted by: Al on March 31, 2006 at 12:52 PM | PERMALINK

Ironically, I thought of this a few hours before he announced it. And immediately came up with a half dozen reasons why it would be a really, really bad idea... I'm sure if he had thought about it for the same 5 minutes I did, he could have figured that out too, but.. well, that would be out of character. The Id is everything to these guys, and they don't want to waste time bringing it down with reason and restraint.

Anyway:

1) There aren't enough prisoners. Ironically, with the new house bill, that could be remedied, so the people crossing to pick our fruit for a pitance could be arrested and then forced to do it for free.

2) It would create a dynamic where farms would be in bed with the ciminal justice money train to create laws locking more people up for longer and for less reason, to make certain we had a work force to pick the fruit. It make certain that we could never afford to reduce crime, because it would drive up produce costs.

3) It would be a security nightmare. Orchards are big. Farms are big. They have a lot of high plants and hidden places. It would take a lot of guards to even try to contain them. YOu couldn't chain them, it would wreck the plants and be impossible to climb ladders. Escapes would be rapant.

4) The cost of the guards over the prisoners would be way higher than the cost of guards in a prison, and ridiculously higher than the cost of migrants on the farm. Farms couldn't afford it, and state subsidizing of the workforce would violate our trade agreements.

5) It would create a work force with even less power to defend itself from cruel or dangerous working conditions than migrants. No one gives a crap about prisoners, and lots of people, especially republicans, like the idea of torturing them. I'm sure you could get a 10% support rate from the US population for randomly shooting 1 prisoner a day in every prison, so forget about protecting these workers. And no politician is going to stick their neck out for prisoner protection.

6) A lot of these guys have AIDS. Want to see conservatives freak out? Tell them their fruit is picked by guys with AIDS.

7) It would be very easy to sneak contraband back into a prison from a day in the fields, unless very expensive procedures were put into place to thoroughly search them.

8) Prison labor quickly leads to corruption in the people getting it and managing it. Farmers would be forced to depend on prison officials to supply the labor when they needed it. It would be nothing to bribe someone to make sure a competing farm was left with rotting vegetables in its field.

Thats a quick short list.

Posted by: Mysticdog on March 31, 2006 at 12:52 PM | PERMALINK

All lovely thoughts. Slave labor is so attractive. However I am sure the country club prisoners would be exempt. This would leave many opportunities for prisoner escapes, not to mention potentially taking jobs from citizens who are not incarcerated. How do you decide which jobs they are eligible for? I just hope that they don't do it in my neighborhood.

Posted by: bushburner on March 31, 2006 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

Down here in sweet Texas convicts in the state prison system already do this. They grow, hoe, and harvest crops. Raise animals for food along with other jobs.
Delay could just be another hoe carrying convict. What a sweet mental image.

Posted by: David on March 31, 2006 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

Meanwhile, for the adults, here's an article about prison labor. A large number of prisoners are currently working making products and working at their prison itself.

BTW, if picking strawberries is bad for prisoners (Kevin Drum: "10 hours per day of backbreaking work in the blazing sun"), just how good can it be for the illegal aliens who currently do it?

-- Illegal immigration news

Posted by: TLB on March 31, 2006 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

Makin' me giggle: How about all of the current Republic (nod to BigRiver) criminals lined up in a chain gang, breaking rocks and singing "Po Lazarus," a la the opening sequence to "O Brother, Where Art Thou?"

Where are the Cohen brothers when you need them?

Posted by: Wonderin on March 31, 2006 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

what do you do when the convicts damage or foul the goods? Send them to prison?

No silly, you send them to Congress.

Or Iraq.

Posted by: craigie on March 31, 2006 at 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

Delay could just be another hoe carrying convict. What a sweet mental image.

What works even better for me is DeLay being carried around as another convict's hoe.

Posted by: craigie on March 31, 2006 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

Get this,

Tonight on The History Channel, 'Saddam and the Third Reich, key individuals of the Iraqi-Nazi connection'.

Honest.

Posted by: cld on March 31, 2006 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

Capitol police have announced they will seek an arrest warrant for Cynthia McKinney.

Posted by: Home On The Range on March 31, 2006 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

Abramoff would probably get into it.

Posted by: Ben Merc on March 31, 2006 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

What works even better for me is DeLay being carried around as another convict's hoe.

Bah-dummm-bump

As much as I will always despise with the very essence of my being everything that liberals ever say or have ever said or thought or read...that was funny.

Posted by: Red State Mike on March 31, 2006 at 1:03 PM | PERMALINK

We had a penal farm here in Memphis (well, actually Shelby County, close enough) from the 1800s until, I think, the 60s or 70s. Some places still have them. From an MSU report:

http://msucares.com/news/print/agnews/an97/970901bm.htm

Excerpt:
"Inmates at the Hinds County Penal Farm are eating better and costing taxpayers less money, thanks to a gardening program at the facility.

Bill Maily, Hinds County extension agent, helps run the Mississippi Vegetable Demonstration Project at the prison. Meal costs dropped from $1.68 to about 43 cents, saving more than $20,000 a month. The farm feeds the about 200 inmates, and supplements meals at the two Hinds County jails.

Capt. Dan Smith, commander of the penal farm, said state inmates at the prison work eight to 10 hours a day producing and preserving the food. Inmates prefer working on the farm to staying in their cells.

"We notice it builds self-esteem in that they're actually accomplishing something," Smith said. "It also builds a little pride because these are people who've never worked before and now they're doing something productive."

Maily said the 25-acre farm produces corn, peas, broccoli, greens, potatoes, cantaloupe, okra and more. Once 1,000 bushels of each crop is preserved, excess vegetables are sold to buy more farm supplies. Buyers are vendors at the local farmers' market and the public at a street corner vegetable stand.

"The money generated from the sale of the vegetables are put back into the farming operation for equipment, fertilizer, seeds and other gardening expenses for the next year," Maily said.

In addition to vegetable production, the farm has a hog operation, started a meat goat operation last year and expects to begin a cattle operation next year, Smith said.

Maily has been involved in the vegetable program since it began. He visits the farm at least twice a week handling soil analysis, making fertilizer recommendations, and overseeing seeding, irrigation and harvesting.

"If I didn't think it was worth the effort, I wouldn't be doing it," he said.

Since 1996, the farm has been self-sufficient and has required no money from the regular prison budget, Maily said. The farm also has lowered the operating cost of the prison."

Posted by: MJ Memphis on March 31, 2006 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

As much as I will always despise with the very essence of my being everything that liberals ever say or have ever said or thought or read

Well, as long as you're fair and balanced...

Posted by: craigie on March 31, 2006 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

Oregon (a.k.a. land of the libertarian) already has a constitutional requirement that prisoners/prison slaves work 40 hours a week. They're building new prison factories right now and they even have Republican politicians trying to lure Nike to buy in. There just aren't enough prisoners. Prisons have taken over the state's industrial laundry industry but have left plenty of work in construction and on farms for illegals.

My suggestion is to make illegal immigration a felony and incarcerate illegal aliens for 4 or 5 years before deportation. We'd get a lot of work out of them, we could pay them 21 cents an hour, and we could separate the men and women so they didn't pop out new little American citizens right and left.

Posted by: Al on March 31, 2006 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

Since we've pretty much given up on reform and insist on mixing the prison population, might be better than letting them watch tv, lift weights, and rape one another.

Posted by: Jeff II on March 31, 2006 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

"Honestly I agree wholeheartedly and believe there should be more of these programs out there using convict labor."

I believe this is only meant to be applied to convicts who are Christian, hetero, white male, Republican. Disadvantaged convicts should still be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Posted by: Freedom Fighter on March 31, 2006 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

Down here in sweet Texas convicts in the state prison system already do this. They grow, hoe, and harvest crops. Raise animals for food along with other jobs.
Delay could just be another hoe carrying convict. What a sweet mental image.
Posted by: David on March 31, 2006 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

Stealing a potential paying job from an otherwise honest working citizen. Criminals like DeLay do not deserve the privilege of having a job. Put him in a cage like an animal. Like they treat the detainees at Guantanamo.

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on March 31, 2006 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

"Slave labor is so attractive."

Prisoner =/= slave. Let 'em learn some useful skills, do something productive with their time, and save the taxpayers some money.

Posted by: MJ Memphis on March 31, 2006 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

We should exile all prisoners to China where they can make cheap goods for us all.

Everyone benefits, including Wal Mart. With the low cost of maintaining prisons in china, imagine the effect on the budget deficits!

Posted by: lib on March 31, 2006 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

My suggestion is to make illegal immigration a felony and incarcerate illegal aliens for 4 or 5 years before deportation. We'd get a lot of work out of them, we could pay them 21 cents an hour, and we could separate the men and women so they didn't pop out new little American citizens right and left.


Wow, Al may be at last on to something. That may be the only do-able method of discouraging illegal immigration.

That it's totally wrong, of course, is another matter.

Posted by: cld on March 31, 2006 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

I have no objection to making prisoners work. However, it costs 50-60,000 dollars a year to keep a man in prison for a year. This means that prisoners are a way more expensive source of labor than immigrants, legal or illegal.

Not to mention, there aren't enough prisoners (at least in the right places) to pick up the slack.

Posted by: John Biles on March 31, 2006 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

"I have no objection to making prisoners work. However, it costs 50-60,000 dollars a year to keep a man in prison for a year. This means that prisoners are a way more expensive source of labor than immigrants, legal or illegal."

You are out the $50-60K regardless of whether the prisoner works or not. It's a sunk cost. Any benefit from having them do productive labor just defrays the cost of keeping them incarcerated.

Posted by: MJ Memphis on March 31, 2006 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

"Honestly I agree wholeheartedly and believe there should be more of these programs out there using convict labor."

I believe this is only meant to be applied to convicts who are Christian, hetero, white male, Republican. Disadvantaged convicts should still be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Posted by: Freedom Fighter on March 31, 2006 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK


Ummmm wrong. I don't care what color, creed, religion, or sex they are, they aren't sitting in prison to watch tv and socialize they're they're for a crime and it's high time there was some truth in the "repay your debt to society" part of being incarcerated. That goes for the camp cupcake crews and other country club prisons as well.

Posted by: Dreggas on March 31, 2006 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

Freedom Fighter

I believe this is only meant to be applied to convicts who are Christian, hetero, white male, Republican. Disadvantaged convicts should still be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

If the freedom fighters who founded this country whined as much as you do, the Brits and the Indians would still be running the show. Yes, those poor Christian, white, hetero Republicans are one of the most oppressed groups in or out of Jail.

FREE SCOTTER! FREE DELAY!!

Posted by: tomeck on March 31, 2006 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

"Let the prisoners pick the fruits," he said."

Yeah ok, that's an idea but I say we offer our OWN poor a decent wage and these jobs. It's not that american workers won't do the work, (sorry George but this time you're wrong) it's that they won't do the work for such low pay.

Posted by: Lurker42 on March 31, 2006 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

People keep writing that there aren't enough prisoners. Keep saying that, and them that's in charge will reach one obvious, unpleasant conclusion.

Posted by: craigie on March 31, 2006 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

I read a sociological study of just this issue several years ago--more than ten, so sorry I can't remember its title--about how "hobos" were used for just this kind of seasonal labor throughout the west and far west in the days when we had hobos. Both drunks and hobos would be picked up, forced to do day labor for farmers, and then released without pay after they were done. THe police essentially were an arm of the farmers/big buisnesses who couldn't corral enough labor otherwise.

aimai

Posted by: aimai on March 31, 2006 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

Strawberries are far too delicate to be picked by prisoners. A more historically appropriate approach would be to have them cut drain swamps (which is no longer politically correct) or cut trees. Good ideas can be found in "The American Siberia", recounting post-Civil War Florida.

Posted by: Dave on March 31, 2006 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

You're forgetting Duke Cunningham. We can have him digging up garlic this very summer.

Posted by: HeavyJ on March 31, 2006 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

Isn't the prison population around 0.7% of the total population now?

I think only around 2% of the population works in agriculture, so there should be plenty of slaves to do the job.

Land of the prisoner, home of the fearful.

Posted by: jefff on March 31, 2006 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

I believe this is only meant to be applied to convicts who are Christian, hetero, white male, Republican.
Posted by: Freedom Fighter on March 31, 2006 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

Hey FF, you want to talk about they guy in Illinois they just pulled in? White male Christian hetero Republican? Sunday-school teacher? Strangled his 8 year old daughter because he thought she was the devil?

http://beep.dailyherald.com/story.aspx?story=1795

Should HE be given the Nobel Prize? How about a Presidential Medal of Freedom? Why not? He saved the world from ending for another two years! We need more heroes like this - we need to save the world from Devil-posessed 8-year old girls! (although I don't understand why he didn't go for a good old-fashioned witch burning).

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on March 31, 2006 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

"Fresh picked with the hands of forced labor!"

Now that gets my mouth a-waterin'!

Posted by: Jon Karak on March 31, 2006 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

Or maybe Dennis Rader.
White. Male. Christian. Church leader. Cub Scout leader. Upstanding pillar of society. His only mistake? He should have joined the Heritage foundation, so they could send him to Iraq, and he could have gotten a Presidential Medal of Freedom for BTK-ing as many Iraqis as he liked. He could probably have posted pictures of his works on a milblog.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dennis_Rader

Now they want to make him pick strawberries alongside the negroes? Outrageous!

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on March 31, 2006 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK

Since 1996, the farm has been self-sufficient and has required no money from the regular prison budget, Maily said. The farm also has lowered the operating cost of the prison."

It's one thing to have prisoners grow their own food, or even food for market on prison property, it's another thing to rent them out to private persons. The fact is we don't want labor to be "cheap". That just means poverty. We want labor to become more efficient, which allows for growth of wealth.

Strawberry farming in California not only requires "cheap" manual labor, it also requires all sorts of other subsidies, particular water resources diverted from places like the Colorado river. This is clearly a product that should be farmed somewhere else so another country can use these jobs as a stepping stone to improvement. If factories can be shipped overseas in the name of free trade, I don't see why these farms should be any different, particularly since strawberries are something of a luxury anyhow.

Posted by: Derek Copold on March 31, 2006 at 1:50 PM | PERMALINK

You are out the $50-60K regardless of whether the prisoner works or not. It's a sunk cost. Any benefit from having them do productive labor just defrays the cost of keeping them incarcerated.Posted by: MJ Memphis

While I think that figure is too high (probably more like $35K), it's certainly not a sunk cost. The sunk cost is strictly the prison itself. And since that isn't paid for all at once, it could be argued that you could defray these costs as well, provided you'd just get out of the way of business, as the Rethugs have been telling us for how long now, and let them sell their drugs or work as lawyers and investment bankers. Just make sure it's a 90/10 split.

I mean criminals are criminals. Sure, Folson isn't as convivial as K Street, but the pay is the same and the overhead is a lot lower.

Posted by: Jeff II on March 31, 2006 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

Tying together what both MJ Memphis Mysticdog said, coerced labor is incredibly inefficient. Beyond inefficient.

I'm all for creative programs that enhance the lives of prisoners; both in terms of happiness and value - that's what a system of reform should look like. I'm less enthusiastic systems that exploit those that are already being punished.

If the goal is to minimize deviation from legal standards and maximize the social and economic contribution of individual participants, coerced labor is a complete nonstarter. It would probably be good for some big business, and it would satiate some primitive sense of justice among certain people. That doesn't seem to me to be a good enough reason for doing it.

(In 1865 the states that had seceded from the Union had labor productivity levels comparable to Guatemala. Coerced labor is a real economy killer. Some big business benefited, a sense of justice was satiated among certain people, but coerced labor is the ultimate economy killer.)

Posted by: Saam Barrager on March 31, 2006 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

If the goal is to minimize deviation from legal standards and maximize the social and economic contribution of individual participants, coerced labor is a complete nonstarter.

You see, that's your mistake.

That's not the goal. The goal is "to make those fuckers suffer for not being more like us"

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on March 31, 2006 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK

Hetro! Count the names pal the rightwing has more gays then San Fran.As far as Christian, No, they just pretend.

Posted by: Right minded on March 31, 2006 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

This blog has often covered the topic of voting - with many posters noting each time that the hidden goal of those states that disenfranchise ex-cons (which is coupled with the practice of racial profiling)is to permanently cut back the size of the black vote.

I can't believe that people here are now suggesting that its ok to use convicts as free labour (for private industry, not even public entities). Do you think that all the states would give up racial profiling, or do you think that this would quickly become a way of making people slaves again.

An ex-con needs to be treated like anyone else. Otherwise, branding people as cons will become a political game, with the highest of stakes.

Posted by: Dismayed Liberal on March 31, 2006 at 2:08 PM | PERMALINK

Take the low category prisoners, and reduce their sentence to time served in the pickin' fields. You can provide free accomodation (barracks), free food, overalls, and even pay them a dollar/hour. Even give em the weekend off, to go get beer and women.

It's not like its a pleasant job, but given the option instead of prison, I'm sure most will jump at the chance (conditional on good behaviour). If they run, they run. Put out the warrant, and put em in the big house when they're caught, with an extra year or two for "parole" violation.

Use the money from the agricorps to beef up the local sherrifs, and cover the cost of food/huts. Hell, I'm sure it'll pay its own way. Concentrate on full incarceration for the physically dangerous prisoners (rapists, murderers, and assaults).

Posted by: royalblue_tom on March 31, 2006 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

An ex-con needs to be treated like anyone else. Otherwise, branding people as cons will become a political game, with the highest of stakes. Posted by: Dismayed Liberal

Hostile, is that you posting under a new name?

I can't imagine that too many politicians will be out there beating the bushes in a tough race to reclaim the con vote. In any case, my guess is that few cons voted before their incarceration, and probably very few had moments of civic enlightenment when they were "up state."

Posted by: Jeff II on March 31, 2006 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

"Should HE be given the Nobel Prize? How about a Presidential Medal of Freedom?"

Why are you asking me? Seems to me, nominating cold blooded killers for the Nobel Peace Prize is very much in fashion amongst lefties.

Posted by: Freedom Fighter on March 31, 2006 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK

Jeff II,

Is that you Al? That is a gross broadbrush that I don't normally see from you.

I'm not Hostile.

Posted by: Dismayed Liberal on March 31, 2006 at 2:17 PM | PERMALINK

Odd that people should say that there "aren't enough prisoners" ... over one-half of one percent of the population of Texas is in prison, for instance. That's a bunch of people. And a grave reason to fear that hiring-out of convict labor would become a kind of enslavement of arbitrarily imprisoned people.

It's also odd that the right wing, which abhors all kinds of positive government-run bureaucracies and social services, has no problem expanding prison systems.

Posted by: Tim Morris on March 31, 2006 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

Lurker42: Yeah ok, that's an idea but I say we offer our OWN poor a decent wage and these jobs. It's not that american workers won't do the work, (sorry George but this time you're wrong) it's that they won't do the work for such low pay.

Lurker42, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship....

Posted by: Stefan on March 31, 2006 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

lib: All the fruits thus packaged should be labeled 'hand picked and packed by Republican convicts'.

With a label like that, even if the fruit were rotten it would still taste sweet.

Posted by: alex on March 31, 2006 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

Is that you Al? That is a gross broadbrush that I don't normally see from you.

I'm not Hostile. Posted by: Dismayed Liberal

Well, if you respond that way you most certainly are! Harumph!

All false indignity aside, "cons will become a political game, with the highest of stakes"?

Hardly.

Posted by: Jeff II on March 31, 2006 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

Now, folks, this is the same Dana Rohrabacher who thought that the Taliban were devout traditionalists, not terrorists and criticized Bill Clinton for responding to Saddam Husseins attacks on Iraqi Kurds in 1996 with cruise missiles. And this doorknob now wants to use prison labor to pick fruits and vegetables in California. This fellow has really shown fine judgment over the years, yes sirree.

Posted by: Stephen Kriz on March 31, 2006 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

"While I think that figure is too high (probably more like $35K), it's certainly not a sunk cost."

Jeff II, you're right- sunk cost is technically the term I should have used, but it is fairly close in meaning. My intent there is to say that, you are out the $50-60K (if that is the correct figure) regardless of whether the prisoner works or not. So it's not like you are out an extra $50-60K if you make the prisoners work- that is a fixed cost, and any productivity you get from the prisoner's labor defrays the cost.

"I'm all for creative programs that enhance the lives of prisoners; both in terms of happiness and value - that's what a system of reform should look like. I'm less enthusiastic systems that exploit those that are already being punished."

Personally, I'm not really concerned with enhancing the happiness of the prisoners. They are serving time to pay their debt to society, not to self-actualize. However, if a program helps the prisoners get some useful skills (and possibly improve their self-image in the process) and reduces costs to boot, I am all for it.

"I can't believe that people here are now suggesting that its ok to use convicts as free labour (for private industry, not even public entities)."

Traditionally, as I understand it, the labor wasn't free- the private industries paid a certain (small) amount to the convict, and a certain amount to the government. As for using prisoners' labor... well, you do give up a certain amount of rights when you become a prisoner, and the right to determine the use of your time is one of them.

"An ex-con needs to be treated like anyone else."

I agree. Let them pay their debt to society and then go back to freedom as a normal citizen, with full voting rights. Although a few restrictions (registry for sex offenders, gun ownership bans) are probably reasonable.

Posted by: MJ Memphis on March 31, 2006 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

*chuckling*

Posted by: Lurker42 on March 31, 2006 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

"Jeff II, you're right- sunk cost is technically the term I should have used"

Darnit, that should be "not technically the term".

Posted by: MJ Memphis on March 31, 2006 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

Pick strawberries, drain swamps, dig nice new wide straight roads, get the trains to run on time...
The possibilities are endless.

Posted by: Tony on March 31, 2006 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK

I hate liberals! They ma-mak-make me so ma-ma-mad!

Hisssssssssssssssss!

Every fiber of my be-be-being hates lefties.

Boooooooooo, you losers!

I hate your guts.

Posted by: Red State Mi-Mi-Mike on March 31, 2006 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

Jeff II,

There is already much false imprisonment in the US, and its pretty heavily skewed towards minorities.

Adding an economic incentive for the state and majority to continue, or expand, the profiling of the minority, will make it very difficult to reverse the horrible practice of profiling. In fact, the profiling is likely to increase.

And the result would be no longer that an idividual who doesn't vote (I'm going to stretch and give you that - even though I disagree with your assessement) losing his right to vote, but rather an idividual losing the right to be compensated for his labour. That is the stake, not how its going to affect elections.

Why is the freedom of 2 million people (Americans) a trivial matter?

Posted by: Dismayed Liberal on March 31, 2006 at 2:31 PM | PERMALINK

"FREE SCOTTER! FREE DELAY!!"

I am not sure it has the same panache as Free Mumia or Free Tookie tho... especially since they aren't in prison.

Posted by: Freedom Fighter on March 31, 2006 at 2:31 PM | PERMALINK

can't believe that people here are now suggesting that its ok to use convicts as free labour

Why would it have to be "free" labor? The farmers could still have to pay market wages. Meanwhile we could actually enforce existing employment laws so the farmers couldn't continue to hire illegal aliens. Add in some reasoable measures (see royalblue_tom's post for some) and its pretty workable. View this with the success of similar programs mentioned up thread by MJMemphis and I see this as a legitimate option to consider.

Admittedly, there are some problems, but many can be overcome.

Security: offer the option to work outdoors as a reward for good behavior.

Convicts tainting the harvest: use gloves and inspections; if spot inspections show taint, the offending convict loses the priviledge (this would be more effective if TVs were banned from the prison system---books are okay, but no TVs).

Co-erced labor: if its a more attractive choice than sitting around the cell block, is it truly co-erced? (see note about eliminating TV)

Depressing wages for non-convict laborers: as mentioned several times upthread, there's not enough of them to truly impact the labor market; accordingly, the monitoring agency can demand that the farmers pay market wages.

Etc.

Would it have to be monitored to ensure that its not abused. Of course. Part of the wages earned could pay for that monitoring.

Posted by: Edo on March 31, 2006 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK

"Let the prisoners pick the fruits," Mr. Rohrabacher said. "We can do it without bringing in millions of foreigners."

Great -- he's found a way to gay-bait and immigrant-bash at the same time!

Posted by: Kenji on March 31, 2006 at 2:36 PM | PERMALINK

"...as mentioned several times upthread, there's not enough of them..."

Yes, it was mentioned. It was also pointed out that this is false, 0.7% of the population (and rising) is not insignificantly small.

I'm not necessarily opposed to prisoners working, but our real problem with the costs of imprisonment is that we have far too many people imprisoned.

Posted by: jefff on March 31, 2006 at 2:37 PM | PERMALINK

Wouldn't the business end of the hoe be the blade?
And would it be hard to get much done if you at that end?

Posted by: Barry on March 31, 2006 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

Rohrbacher is profoundly crazy, but the image of Katherine Harris swinging a pick axe and breaking rocks is pretty sweet.

Posted by: J Bean on March 31, 2006 at 2:41 PM | PERMALINK

I hate lefties! Now that sounds like a nice White Christian thing to say. Us on the Left still believe Jesus loves you despite your hatered for Religon.

Posted by: Right minded on March 31, 2006 at 2:46 PM | PERMALINK

Why is the freedom of 2 million people (Americans) a trivial matter? Posted by: Dismayed Liberal

It certainly isn't trivial, and I would agree that there is a certain percentage of falsely incarcerated minorities (not to mention all the people jailed for pot). But to think that these people, who may not be guilty of the crimes for which they were convicted, are all of a sudden going to develop a political consciousness and be a potent voting bloc is just silly.

Most of these people were/are on the margins of society to begin with, whether they are criminal or not. The "down trodden" historically have a low participation rate in electoral politics. Hell, you can't even get the majority of gainfully employed non-minority middle class adults in this country, people who have a stake in our glorious "ownership society," to turn off the sit-coms and reality TV long enough to really pay attention to what's happening in the world.

You are well-meaning be completely overstating your case.

Posted by: Jeff II on March 31, 2006 at 2:48 PM | PERMALINK

Why are you asking me?
Posted by: Freedom Fighter on March 31, 2006 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK

Because you're the asshole making blanket statements about white male hetero christians being infallible. That must mean that this guy - who killed the devil and saved the world must not be a cold-blooded murderer. He's a hero in the eyes of the Right. Right?

It's also odd that the right wing, which abhors all kinds of positive government-run bureaucracies and social services, has no problem expanding prison systems.
Posted by: Tim Morris on March 31, 2006 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, they want to expand prison systems alright - and privatize them. What's another word for a person, deprived of rights by the state, but controlled by a private entity?
Slave.

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on March 31, 2006 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK

The county I live in has a sheriff who wins much public favor by humiliating and making suffer the inmates under his control. Several years ago the county instituted chain gangs for men, and just last year chain gangs for women were created. The public loved it.

Another thing this sherrif has done is to eliminate decent food, coffee and cigarettes for the inmates. I am curious who the sheriff sold the black market cigarette concession to and how much revenue it generates. We may never know, but what is certain is that the US has a long history of inmate abuse and public support for it.

Posted by: Hostile on March 31, 2006 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

Jeff,

Yes, it was mentioned. It was also pointed out that this is false, 0.7% of the population (and rising) is not insignificantly small.

I never stated that it was insignificantly small. I only referred to the size of the population in the context of whether or not it could either replace all immigrant labor or even seriously disrupt the labor markets under discussion. I stand by this assertion. Especially as it would only apply to a fraction (hopefully large) of the prison population.

Posted by: Edo on March 31, 2006 at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK

Jeff,

You are erecting a strawman. I am not saying that these people would be a potent voting bloc, but rather that the state still wants to make sure they can't be. Otherwise, why deny cons the right to vote at all? Seems like a waste of debate in the legislature if you're not affecting the number of people that go to the polls through this legislation.

The point I'm making is not about the whims of the prisoners, but rather the opportunism of the state.

Posted by: Dismayed Liberal on March 31, 2006 at 2:56 PM | PERMALINK

The point I'm making is not about the whims of the prisoners, but rather the opportunism of the state. Posted by: Dismayed Liberal

And I'm say, for the third time now, that it doesn't matter either way. You're the one humping the straw, or however that expression goes.

Posted by: Jeff II on March 31, 2006 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK

Jeff,

Every comment you've made in response to me has been about how the prisoners wouldn't actually be losing anything, because they don't exercise the rights that people are seeking to deny them.

I suppose you might also say that the average con is probably unemployed and so he's not giving up any income by being incarcerated either.

If you'd like to address the point I was making about how adding an economic incentive, which is even stronger than the political incentive that currently exists, will increase profiling by the state against its "undesirables", I'm all ears. Why do you not think it would have any effect on policing?

Posted by: Dismayed Liberal on March 31, 2006 at 3:13 PM | PERMALINK

First, Delay is already Dubya's ho- doubtful if he'd share.

Secondly, Fraidy Fucker's attempts to convince us that he is part of some oppressed hetero male minority would be more persuasive if he'd stop expressing his lip-smacking infatuation with all things Dubya. Kinda hard to consider the closeted, self-hating party of Mehlman, Dreier, and Gannon as the last bastion of "heterosexual rights".

Posted by: solar on March 31, 2006 at 3:14 PM | PERMALINK

Been done before, in the South. After the Civil War, chattel slavery was replaced by an even cheaper form of labor, via spectacularly corrupt and brutal convict-leasing policies. (A brief review of one history of the practice here.)

I'd like to think the present administration would see this particular episode of cruelty as a cautionary tale, rather than a pattern to emulate and refine, but it's hard to ignore five years of evidence to the contrary.

Posted by: vetiver on March 31, 2006 at 3:15 PM | PERMALINK

Hostile, is that you posting under a new name?

Humanism creates interesting responses and personal attacks.

Posted by: Hostile on March 31, 2006 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK

Sunshine and fresh air? Too good for Abramoff, DeLay and that ilk. Put them to work in the laundry.

As for the prison harvesters suggestion - let's give it a try. In Rohrabacher's district. Call them Rohrabacher Gangs, so that after the first dozen or so escapes people won't forget who to thank.

Posted by: JoyceH on March 31, 2006 at 3:22 PM | PERMALINK

have any of you guys spent time in prison? I have and it aint fun. "Sittin' around watching cable all day" is an ignorant and uninformed statement. Prison is NOT supposed to be easy. Letting inmates back out into the labor market while they're still incarcerated is contrary to the whole idea of prison. Inmates jump at any chance to get out for even a few hours. They do not deserve it. Both the left and the right are wrong on this issue. Until we start treating prison like the hell it is supposed to be, the recidivism rates will remain at their current level.

Posted by: imbroglio on March 31, 2006 at 3:25 PM | PERMALINK

Freedom fighter sounds alot like the Nazis just replace Bush with Hitler.Same hatered towards all that is not them.

Posted by: Right minded on March 31, 2006 at 3:25 PM | PERMALINK

I would not eat a strawberry touched by Jack Abramoff! Ewwww!

Posted by: shortstop on March 31, 2006 at 3:29 PM | PERMALINK

It's fine to have prisoners tend to farms and gardens IN THE PRISON YARD. That's where most prison farms are located. Put prisoners out in open fields? Oh brother, where art thou?

Posted by: CT on March 31, 2006 at 3:31 PM | PERMALINK

Brilliant! Then we can arrest all the illegals, and instead of their employers paying for their food and lodging in the form of paychecks, all the rest of us taxpayers in CA can do it, and in return they pick our veggies! And then agri conglomerates can book excess profits just like the oil business did! But wait! hasn't Walmart already figured out how to have the taxpayers fund employee benefits?

Posted by: Marylou on March 31, 2006 at 3:43 PM | PERMALINK

Recidivism is not reduced by increasing punishment. Recidivism is reduced by providing inmates with a means of reclaiming personal dignity.


Posted by: Hostile on March 31, 2006 at 3:45 PM | PERMALINK

When I spent my 4 years in prison, I often worked in the prison shops stamping out license plates. It wasn't until I was given the job of shining the bossman's shoes and giving blowjobs to the guards that I finally regained my dignity, the dignity that I now give freely to my fellow democrats and liberals. You can find my phone number on interstate highway rest stop bathroom stall door near you.

Posted by: Hostile on March 31, 2006 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

Hostile,

"Recidivism is not reduced by increasing punishment. Recidivism is reduced by providing inmates with a means of reclaiming personal dignity."

Your faith is touching. My turn: Let's free everyone in jail to show them how much we love them, and then they'll never commit any more crimes ever again.

Posted by: James on March 31, 2006 at 4:20 PM | PERMALINK

"They'll be a lot less likely to re-enter if they learn job skills while they're in prison."

Yeah, they'll be skilled pickers when they get out.

Prison labor, like illegal immigrant labor, is just another dodge to get out of paying a decent wage.

Notice no Repubican't coming forward to suggest raising wages if you want to get real Amerikans taking the jobs now done by illegal immigrants.

No, keeping wages down is their number one priority.

I've been to parts of the country where real Amerikans, who speak English and everything, change the sheets in the motels. Their talking point that "Americans won't take these jobs" is just pure BS. Look at all the Americans who used to do construction jobs, until the contractors started hiring illegals at half the pay or less.

Follow the dollar signs if you want to find a Republican't political position.

Posted by: Cal Gal on March 31, 2006 at 4:21 PM | PERMALINK

James
Your faith is touching. My turn: Let's free everyone in jail to show them how much we love them, and then they'll never commit any more crimes ever again.

James, I will gladly give you all of my personal dignity. I no longer commit crimes myself, other than the victimless one of serving as John Kerry's man-whore.

Posted by: Hostile on March 31, 2006 at 4:22 PM | PERMALINK

The man's name is spelled Rohrbacher, not Rohrabacher. The AP had it wrong, too. Not that I care about him -- I'm a copyeditor, can't stand little typos and errors, is all.

Posted by: sep on March 31, 2006 at 4:31 PM | PERMALINK

When I spent my 4 years in prison, I often worked in the prison shops stamping out license plates. It wasn't until I was given the job of shining the bossman's shoes and giving blowjobs to the guards that I finally regained my dignity, the dignity that I now give freely to my fellow democrats and liberals. You can find my phone number on interstate highway rest stop bathroom stall door near you.

James
Your faith is touching. My turn: Let's free everyone in jail to show them how much we love them, and then they'll never commit any more crimes ever again.

James, I will gladly give you all of my personal dignity. I no longer commit crimes myself, other than the victimless one of serving as John Kerry's man-whore.

I did not write the above comments. This imposter does bring up prison rape, however, and I think that is one reason why people who do serve time come out of incarceration as broken people rather than ready to become productive members of society, which leads to higher recidivism.

Posted by: Hostile on March 31, 2006 at 4:32 PM | PERMALINK

I retract my previous post. God, I suck today. Rohrabacher it is!

Posted by: sep on March 31, 2006 at 4:32 PM | PERMALINK

"Yes, it was mentioned. It was also pointed out that this is false, 0.7% of the population (and rising) is not insignificantly small.

I never stated that it was insignificantly small. "

Anything that would make no noticable difference is insignificant, that is what "insignificant" means.

Posted by: jefff on March 31, 2006 at 4:52 PM | PERMALINK

Anything that would make no noticable difference is insignificant, that is what "insignificant" means.

Fair enough. Yet, it is not small. Thus the statement "...insignificantly small" is incorrect and one which I did not make.

Posted by: Edo on March 31, 2006 at 5:30 PM | PERMALINK

Again, until we as an american public embraces prison as a form of PUNISHMENT and not reform we will continue to have high rates of capital crimes. Prison time should absolutely SUCK and the death penalty should either be abolished or made as brutal and as public as possible. There can be no inbetween.

Posted by: imbroglio on March 31, 2006 at 5:56 PM | PERMALINK

When I spent my 4 years in prison, I often worked in the prison shops stamping out license plates. It wasn't until I was given the job of shining the bossman's shoes and giving blowjobs to the guards that I finally regained my dignity, the dignity that I now give freely to my fellow democrats and liberals. You can find my phone number on interstate highway rest stop bathroom stall door near you.
Posted by: Hostile

Why does none of this surprise me?

Posted by: Jeff II on March 31, 2006 at 6:09 PM | PERMALINK

Because you wrote it.

Posted by: on March 31, 2006 at 6:15 PM | PERMALINK

Because you wrote it. Posted by:

New around here, aren't oh nameless (dickless?) one.

No. If I want to go for the jugular or kick 'em in the balls, I do so honestly, and sign my posts, unlike, say, Hostile, and a number of other essentially anonyms folks using aliases and who are not honest enough to use their own e-mail addresses.

Best thing Kevin could do for this blog would be to require registration. The trolls, except for our favorite masochist, T-Bone, would be gone in a day.

Then again, it wouldn't be as much fun if you didn't have dickwad punching bags like Al and BigDribble and MammaryDan to kick around.

Furthermore, that style is so wrong.

Posted by: Jeff II on March 31, 2006 at 7:17 PM | PERMALINK

Great job for impeached terrorist coddlers!

Where's Willy Clinton?

Posted by: Neal on March 31, 2006 at 7:44 PM | PERMALINK

a number of other essentially anonyms folks using aliases and who are not honest enough to use their own e-mail addresses

I resemble that comment. For the record my alias is as good an identifier as Jeff II. As for not using personal email address, two items: 1) Mr. Drum has my personal email, if you have a serious enough problem or issue with me, request if from him, I trust him to make the right call; 2) I used to use my personal email here back when it was Political Animal all by its lonesome and soon started receiving 100s of spam emails a day. I don't have the time to deal with 100s of spam messages.

Posted by: Edo on March 31, 2006 at 7:46 PM | PERMALINK

Political Animal all by its lonesome and soon started receiving 100s of spam emails a day. I don't have the time to deal with 100s of spam messages.
Posted by: Edo

I'm sure that was Kevin's fault.

If you are working with a decent ISP and have the latest version of XP and Outlook, you should not be getting much spam if any. However, if you are using yahoo.com or hotmail.com, you deserve spam.

Spam is a direct result of where you go and what you are imprudent enough to click on. It is also a function of having a really lame e-mail address, like kevin@ or tom@ or gail@.

Come on, Edo (Yedo?), out yourself!

Posted by: Jeff II on March 31, 2006 at 7:54 PM | PERMALINK

I think Dana's point was that if you make illegals into felons, then you can just let/make them continue working in the US, but as prisoners.
Our farms would then be deputized as prisons. Somehow this would end up being more expensive, but the R's would make a profit on the security aspect of this. (No, I'm not exagerating. I think this is where he was going with this)

Dream on, Kevbud. Republicans will never let republicans do hard time.

Posted by: jussumbody on March 31, 2006 at 10:16 PM | PERMALINK

The short-handled hoe was outlawed(at least in California) some years back.

Posted by: lee on April 1, 2006 at 12:55 AM | PERMALINK

Rohrbacher was on Bill Maher's HBO show tonight, and at one point Maher brought up Bush's seven-minute vapor lock after Chief-of-Staff Andy Card informed him on 9-11 that "the country is under attack." Maher said that lack of reaction was utterly indefensible -- particularly in this day and age of the 45-minute ICBM -- and that if the Democrats had been smart enough to just play and replay that moment in commercials during the 2004 election, as Rove surely would have done against his political opponents, Bush would have been a one-termer. Incomprehensibly, Rohrbacher rose to defend Bush's deer-in-the-headlights moment, though the straws he tried grasping at all crumbled miserably. But when Maher asked if Rohrbacher would have defended Clinton had he done the same thing, Rohrbacher, unable to respond, looked like a man defeated and deflated. The crowd went ape shit nuts. Brilliant moment, though as usual, without any effect or import on these times.
--
HRlaughed

Posted by: HRlaughed on April 1, 2006 at 2:39 AM | PERMALINK

Prison time should absolutely SUCK and the death penalty should either be abolished or made as brutal and as public as possible. There can be no inbetween.
Posted by: imbroglio

Let's just outsource prisons to India, Turkey, China, Columbia, Russia, and Mexico.

They do a really bang-up job of outsourcing their most ruthless criminal organizations to us after all. Gets us out of that whole 'repatriation' mess.

Wonder what Guiana is doing with Devil's Island these days?

Posted by: CFShep on April 1, 2006 at 8:38 AM | PERMALINK

But when Maher asked if Rohrbacher would have defended Clinton had he done the same thing, Rohrbacher, unable to respond, looked like a man defeated and deflated. The crowd went ape shit nuts. Brilliant moment, though as usual, without any effect or import on these times. Posted by: HRlaughed

Shooting fish in a barrel. Why in the world would Rohrbacher's handlers allow him to commit suicide like that? Then again, the guy spends more time with his foot in his mouth than the average idiot Republican congressmen, so he's probably (like Bush) surrounded himself with people not much brighter than himself.

What's weird however, is that he's from California. You wouldn't be surprised by a guy like that representing a hick state like Oklahoma or Nebraska (Tom Osborne or JC Watts anyone?). California has some large hugely conservative pockets, but Rohrbacher's a rube.

Posted by: JeffII on April 1, 2006 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK


Prison should suck!!! are you kidding me!!
you mean they would have to give up the tv's
in their cells,the drugs the,lounging around
all day,ordering hits on other gang members at
Pelican Bay State prison...I forgot they said
get the dude a hair cut..Prison shouldn't suck
it should make the suckers so friggen tired all
the want to do is crawl into their bunks and
sleep...Chain-gangs! bring em back..Bust those
rocks boy,yasa boss breken da rocks boss...

Posted by: Tincan Sailor on April 1, 2006 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

Don't worry, ole Dana is going to male Scooter, Delay, and turd blossom trusties.

Posted by: darby1936 on April 1, 2006 at 7:00 PM | PERMALINK

Uf corse yer vary wity, butt thu sbstuns ov yer argewmant iz wut wee cal ..."" add homunum!!!!

I've noticed even in my own wonderful self, the tendency to loathe the *other* side, and just as an artifact in anthropology, perhaps you'll profit from my self examination, by looking at one of my excellent postings, here:

http://forgottenprophets.blogspot.com/2006/03/psychological-study.html

Let there be peace, between us, or at least calm. Let there be respect, between us, or at least civility.


Regards,

Jack H

Posted by: Jack H on April 2, 2006 at 7:14 PM | PERMALINK

No. If I want to go for the jugular or kick 'em in the balls, I do so honestly, and sign my posts, unlike, say, Hostile, and a number of other essentially anonyms folks using aliases and who are not honest enough to use their own e-mail addresses.

Many moons ago back on usenet, I used to use my real name and email. My rules was, never flame anyone else, keep the dialog high. Didn't matter. Soon you could google on my name or email and get a link to a thread with "Ferd you #$%^-ing mother$%^&-ing snot-$%^-er" and other stuff in it. Even if not directed at me, it was not sat to be linked with it.

Maybe Jeff II, you can tolerate someone looking for your name and getting hits like that. I can't. Probably others are similar. So I post totally anonymous now. On another forum I use my name, but it requires you to do so, and is moderated in return.

The price you pay for anonymous posting is every now and then some moron spoofs your posting. Plus all the general moronity that comes from anonymity. But there's a trade for everything.

Posted by: Red State Mike on April 2, 2006 at 8:03 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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