Inmates Considered by Alabama to Replace Immigrant Labor

Inmates Considered by Alabama to Replace Immigrant Labor

December 27, 2011


Agriculture officials in Alabama are seriously considering whether inmates can fill a persistent labor shortage that the farm agency blames on the new illegal immigration law.

A deputy commissioner of the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries, Brett Hall, said that the planting season is coming in south Alabama, and there are some growers who fear that most of their usual workers have fled the state because of the new law.

He said that around 4,000 workers are needed by the nursery and landscape industry in southern counties during the first quarter of 2012 to get ready for the planting season. Hall also said that forestry and farming will require more laborers. Since there not enough legal residents to fill the vacancy, he said that the Agriculture Department is checking with the Department of Corrections to see if prisoners could do some of the tasks.

On Monday, just a day before the agency is to meet with farmers and agriculture industry officials, Hall said, “We’re trying to get ahead of the curve and see if we can be of assistance to other parts of Alabama, too.”

Brian Corbett, the prison spokesman, said that the state has around 2,000 work-release inmates who may be eligible to do such work. He also said that the department is “always happy to promote our … program to employers as an alternative labor situation.”

However, Corbett also added that work-release prisoners are not the solution to the current labor shortages liked to the law. He said, “Many, if not most, of those 2,000 are already employed.”