Traditional Values

by digby

Ever since passing what its Legislature promoted as the nation's toughest laws against illegal immigration last summer, Colorado has struggled with a labor shortage as migrants fled the state. This week, officials announced a novel solution: Use convicts as farmworkers.

The Department of Corrections hopes to launch a pilot program this month — thought to be the first of its kind — that would contract with more than a dozen farms to provide inmates who will pick melons, onions and peppers.

Crops were left to spoil in the fields after the passage of legislation that required state identification to get government services and allowed police to check suspects' immigration status.

"The reason this [program] started is to make sure the agricultural industry wouldn't go out of business," state Rep. Dorothy Butcher said. Her district includes Pueblo, near the farmland where the inmates will work.

Prisoners who are a low security risk may choose to work in the fields, earning 60 cents a day. They also are eligible for small bonuses.