Solving all of our problems with prison labor

Do you remember how, a week or so ago, I told you that the City of Ypsilanti was teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, and how, if we didn’t figure out something fast, we were going to have to lay off about two-thirds of fire and police personnel, and almost everyone presently working in City Hall? Well, I was just scrolling through the articles at Think Progress, when the answer to all of our problems came to me. I was staring at the headline, “Georgia Considers Replacing Firefighters with Free Prison Laborers,” when everything just clicked. The answer, my friends, has been right in front of us this whole time. How many times, on this very site, have we bemoaned the fact that so many Michiganders were locked up in prison? Well, why not put them to use as building inspectors, cops, school bus drivers, teachers, what have you? With the right training materials and technological safeguards, I don’t see as how anything could go wrong.

I know it might be difficult getting used to having prisoners doing police work, but, with all due respect to members of the police force, how difficult could it be to shoot tasers at skateboarders and write traffic tickets? And, as these individuals have already been through the justice system, I’m thinking that the training for those destined for the police force would be fairly minimal. I know that some of you might be apprehensive, thinking that perhaps a meth-addicted former prostitute may not have the wherewithal to be a city planner, but I’d ask to you to consider the pyramids of Egypt. They were built with uneducated slave labor, and they’ve stood the test of time. And there’s no reason to think that, with the same amount of coercion, we might not get results that are just as good. As long as we make an effort to keep the pedophiles away from the parks and schools, and the embezzlers out of the accounting department, I think we’ll be fine.

And, most importantly, just think of the money that we’d save as a community, if everyone from the Building Inspector to the City Manager was an inmate. We could cut taxes to almost zero, and really begin to experience the promise of unfettered capitalism first hand.

Here’s a clip from the article in the Florida Times-Union:

A select group of inmates may be exchanging their prison jumpsuits for firefighting gear in Camden County.

The inmates-to-firefighters program is one of several money-saving options the Board of County Commissioners is looking into to stop residents’ fire insurance costs from more than doubling. The county is also considering whether substations or a volunteer force could improve its Insurance Services Office, or ISO, rating.

The inmate firefighter program would be the most cost-effective choice, saving the county more than $500,000 a year by some estimates. But that option is already controversial, drawing criticism from the firefighters who would have to work alongside – and supervise – the prisoners…

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  1. Demetrius
    Posted October 12, 2011 at 5:53 am | Permalink

    Let’s see: A state in the deep South, forcing what I can only assume are mostly Black prisoners to do unpaid work that others in the community either can’t or won’t do, and arguing they are forced to do so for “economic” reasons.

    I know this is a new idea, but why does it sound so *familiar* … ?

  2. Edward
    Posted October 12, 2011 at 6:42 am | Permalink

    There you go with your negativity, Demetrius. This is a good thing for prisoners. They get out of their cells, get a little fresh air (delivered though a respirator system as they enter our burning homes), and learn a new skill in the process. I think that sounds like a pretty good deal. Sure, some people will die in the process, but it’s better than paying taxes, right?

  3. Eel
    Posted October 12, 2011 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    No word on whether City Council is considering your slavery idea. It sounds, however, like they’re considering an income tax and a Water Street millage.

  4. Posted October 12, 2011 at 7:48 am | Permalink

    perhaps a meth-addicted former prostitute may not have the wherewithal to be a city planner

    I…would like to plead the fifth.

  5. Posted October 12, 2011 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    This idea is not new. States have long farmed out prisoners to do all sorts of tasks, the most egregious being contracts with private companies to set up in house manufacturing operations. Far from fabricating license plates or cleaning the sides of roads, what this amounts to is the use of slave labor for private gain.

    In terms of fire-fighting, it is doubtful that inmates will be covered under the same safety regulations that normal fire fighters are. If an inmate gets injured in the line of duty, does that inmate qualify for workman’s compensation or disability? Doubtful. It’s also likely that fire fighters will place expendable inmates in the most dangerous of situations.

  6. John Galt
    Posted October 12, 2011 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    Make fun all you want, I think this is the kind of out-of-the-box idea we need to see more of from our leaders. Why aren’t we investing in technology, for instance, that would enable us to serve processed raw sewage to the poor and those in prison? And why not give the poor a chance to earn some money by selling organs? And why do we have any non-prison fire crews? This is 2011, people! There’s no reason for free men to be running into burning buildings.

  7. anonymous mike
    Posted October 12, 2011 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    The kind of teaching we’re expecting our teachers to do isn’t really even teaching anyway. Prisoners can read scripts just as well as teachers. Plus, with class sizes approaching 60, prisoners would have a better chance of maintaining order. It might not be that bad of an idea actually.

  8. Posted October 12, 2011 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    Really, what we could do instead of sending people to prison, is force them to go to school instead. It might be cheaper for everyone.

  9. Meta
    Posted October 12, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    But then we couldn’t use them like slaves, Pete. I think you’re missing the point.

  10. Lynne
    Posted October 12, 2011 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    I know you are kidding but I also know that there is a good chunk of people who would be perfectly happy with what would be essentially slave labor if it meant they could save a couple of hundred dollars a year in property taxes.

  11. Mr. X
    Posted October 12, 2011 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    I look forward to the prospect of being carried out of my burning home by a man in shackles who doesn’t care whether I live or die.

  12. Interrobang
    Posted October 12, 2011 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

    I’d ask to you to consider the pyramids of Egypt. They were built with uneducated slave labor

    Actually, the Egyptian pyramids were built by master craftsmen who even signed the blocks from time to time. /pedantry

    On the other hand, there have to be a few expert counterfeiters and forgers around who could be voluntold into certain highly-skilled professions, don’t you think? They already tried this with welfare recipients just across the border in Ontario, after all.

  13. Ramses the Lesser
    Posted October 14, 2011 at 12:33 am | Permalink

    Hey, why don’t we build some pyramids?

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