Using prisoners for farm labor has been a big topic in the last few months, the pilot program that the Department of Corrections wants to start will be right outside of Pueblo. How many prisons do we have in Pueblo? Just one, and it's a women's minimum security prison. Yep, they are putting the girls to work in those fields.
Two Fridays ago, a carful of Mexican workers showed up at Pisciotta's office off Highway 50, but it's not clear whether more will follow. Hedging his bets, Pisciotta, along with a handful of other local farmers, has signed on to a pilot program with the Colorado Corrections Department that could supply them with 10-member crews of low-security female prisoners.
The program has made headlines well beyond Colorado, and not because of the proposal to use prison labor. Rather, it's the scheme's easy equivalence between undocumented workers and U.S. citizens who've been convicted of crimes and stripped of their rights. Sure, nativists long have tried to persuade us that crossing the border without papers is equivalent to committing a capital crime. But the fact that a group of Colorado farmers has turned to prisoners to meet labor needs says a whole lot about why so many U.S. employers prefer illegal immigrant labor in the first place — it's cheap, dependable yet impermanent, and, well, they have no rights either.
LA TIMES OPINION