Georgia officials have set their sights on another potential pool of workers to help bridge the state's severe farm labor gap: prisoners. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution says the idea is to put nonviolent inmates — who are spending the end of their prison terms at one of the state's 13 transitional centers — to work picking fruits and vegetables across Georgia.
It is at least the state's second attempt to tackle the labor shortages since enacting a tough new immigration law many farmers blame for their problems. State officials started experimenting last summer by encouraging criminal probationers to work on the farms, but results are mixed. Officials hope the nonviolent offenders would be motivated to learn new skills, earn money and eventually land steady jobs that would help them once they get out of prison. The work would be voluntary for the prisoners. Pay would be set by farmers, though it would be at least minimum wage. Prisoners would pay for their transportation to and from the farms.