A Massachusetts sheriff is proposing an unconventional and inhumane initiative that has some human rights activists very concerned.
Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson on Wednesday announced an initiative called Project N.I.C.E (National Inmate’s Community Endeavors) that would offer to send inmates down to the U.S.-Mexico border to help build the wall proposed by president-elect Donald Trump, Fox 25 News reported. The announcement was made during the inauguration address for Hodgson’s fourth six-year term as county sheriff.
As part of the project, Hodgson suggested that inmates from the Bristol County House of Corrections facility in Dartmouth “volunteer” their time to build the border wall or clean up disaster areas. The Republican sheriff has spoken out against illegal immigration a number of times in the past, so it’s no surprise that he would offer cheap prison labor to help build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants out.
Hodgson told Boston’s Herald Radio on Thursday that his proposed initiative is currently under review by the Trump administration’s staff, but he hasn’t yet heard from the president-elect himself.
“They have it, [and] I believe it’s going over to their domestic policy advisers,” the sheriff said. “We will have to wait to see if it’s something the president-elect is interested in.”
Left-leaning human rights supporters and advocates for more lenient immigration laws were quick to denounce Hodgson’s prison labor project. Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts, deemed his initiative “perverse, inhumane and likely unconstitutional.”
“Not only is Sheriff Hodgson willing to get involved with Trump’s racially discriminatory plan to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, he is proposing to use modern-day slave labor to do it,” Rose said in a statement. “The men and women incarcerated at the Bristol County House of Corrections are mostly poor people and people of color. The idea of sending them to build a wall to keep out other people of color who are fleeing violence or devastating poverty is abhorrent.”
The ACLU exec went on to vow that the organization would do everything it could to block the sheriff’s plan.
Prison labor has become a mounting concern for human rights advocates, many of whom have likened it to modern-day slavery, as prisoners are paid just $2 per hour for their work. A large majority of these inmates are disproportionately African-American or Latino and can barely afford to buy necessities from the prison commissary or pay their child support.
In September of last year, Atlanta Black Star reported on the nationwide prison strike in which thousands of inmates across 24 states spoke out against the forced prison labor and deplorable living conditions. A handful of corrections officers at Holman Correctional Facility in Alabama even stood in solidarity with the prisoners by refusing to show up for their shifts.
“Last night at Holman prison, an emergency situation developed as ALL of the officers assigned to the second shift waged a historic work strike for the first time in the history of the Alabama Department of Corrections,” the Free Alabama Movement stated in a press release dated Sept. 24. “Officers have complained about overcrowding and the need for a mass release, more education and rehabilitation programs, as well as issues with disease and filth.”
Since the start of his campaign, president-elect Trump has pushed the idea of building a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border and making Mexico foot the bill. Now, Hodgson is adamant in helping move the reality TV star-turned politician’s plans along.
“This is what government ought to be doing,” he told the Boston Herald. “It ought to be using whatever resources as creatively as we can to save taxpayer money and make sure our taxpayers are safe, which is another responsibility.”
“These inmates, they’re skilled, they want to be able to do these things,” Hodgson said. “They get it, they don’t want to be where they are, they made mistakes. But, they feel good about themselves when someone does something that’s challenging, that gives them more skills that set them up to succeed.”