Alabama considers prisoners in place of immigrant laborers

New law passed, many immigrant workers fled the state

The new immigration law in Alabama may have sent a lot of immigrant workers packing, and the state’s farmers fear that come planting season next year they will be short on help.

But agricultural officials are considering taking a page from Stephen King’s epic novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption by tapping into Alabama’s prisoner population to get the job done. 

According to Brett Hall, a deputy commissioner with the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries, the agricultural industry will need thousands of workers come early fall 2012. The department recently began consulting with the Department of Corrections to determine whether prisoners could do some of the work.

"We're trying to get ahead of the curve and see if we can be of assistance to other parts of Alabama, too," Hall said earlier this week.

Alabama has more than 2,000 eligible workers in its work release program, and although using prisoners for the labor won’t solve the worker-deficiency problem, it could help.

“[We’re] always happy to promote our ... program to employers as an alternative labor situation," said prison spokesman Brian Corbett. “But many, if not most, of those 2,000 are already employed.”

Hall said although the jobs pay well above minimum wage, many Americans find the work too physically taxing to perform.

Read more about Alabama considering to use prisoners for agricultural work.

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Cathleen Flahardy

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