Five Colorado farmers are contracting for prisoners to work their fields this summer because they fear strict new state immigration laws will keep migrant laborers away, says the Rocky Mountain News. State prison officials are negotiating for crews of 10 to 20 minimum- to low- medium-security inmates to do farm work near Pueblo. It may be the first time that inmates leave prison to work in private industry. About 2,000 inmates work inside prisons, including some in Buena Vista who make saddles for a private company.
One farmer wants prisoners to hoe, transplant and harvest the onions, watermelons and pumpkins on his 700-acre farm from May 1 to Oct. 1. The number of workers would vary from week to week; prisoners would get their usual 60 cents per day. The state is asking the farmers to pay $9.60 an hour per prisoner to cover guards, transportation to the fields and food. That’s a bit more than the cost of minimum wage plus benefits such as workers compensation insurance. A new state law requires employers to verify Social Security numbers and save proof that workers are legal.