Chain gangs are cheaper

December 10, 2011

As one could expect, Alabama’s tough new immigration law  induced a large percentage of immigrants to flee the state. However, the Alabama legislators responsible for the new immigration law apparently either thought otherwise or simply underestimated the consequences this law would have for the agricultural sector, which is heavily reliant on low-waged Hispanics to do the hard labor and now struggling to replace the lost labor force. 

But fear not, for John McMillan, commissioner of the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries knows the solution to this problem. He suggests:

[…] that inmate labor through the state’s work-release program offers a short-term solution to the sudden labor shortage that has hit Alabama since enforcement of its illegal immigration law kicked in. 

The positive aspects of this program are of course the following:

  • inmates can be forced to work
  • they are paid even less than illegal immigrants (or not paid at all)
  • they cannot form unions
  • and they deserve to do hard labor to atone for their crimes 

On the negative side, there is this: 

  • supply and demand mechanisms cause average wages for non-inmate workers to decline 
  • lower wages will leave workers to struggle to pay their bills
  • consequently crime rates will increase 

But wait a moment–that last negative point will reinforce this new business model by increasing the pool of forced laborers, driving down the cost of labor outside the prisons even further, and increasing the profits for the other business operating in the state. It’s a brilliant strategy, from a pathological point of view.  

Source:  Politico – Ala.: Inmates can replace Hispanic farmhands

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