> Thank-you Michael for so eloquently explaining Catherine Sneeds program at
> the San Francisco prison. I believe her program is a model that can be
> expanded and applied throughout the country.
> Loren allow me to respond to your comments and expand on my initial
My initial e-mail was written in very simplistic terms and ideas for a
number of reasons. I was looking to gage the responsiveness of participants
in the field of organic/sustainable agriculture. I am fully aware that just
stating that prisoners should be put to work on organic farms is an
idealistic statement that leads to endless questions: such as how many and
what types of prisoners should be allowed to work on farms and how to ensure
farmer, community and prisoner safety.
I was looking to see how receptive people are to this idea especially the
farmers, where is their level of convertibility at?
All one needs to do is read a newspaper to see how high recidivism rates
are. This indicates that the present criminal justice system is not
effective at deterring crime or "rehabilitating" prisoners. You object to
supporting those who have chosen a "criminal lifestyle", we need to ask why
have they chosen that life style. And if this is the only means of survival
they know, then it is logical to conclude that they will return to this
lifestyle once released from prison unless they are presented with other
alternatives. I am curious why you think that training prisoners to do farm
labor is so wrong, especially if it is non-exploitive. By boycotting
products made by prisoners you deny their existence and their right to be
productive citizens. People who are in prison have broken the law and
usually deserve to go to prison. But once they aquire the label of
"prisoner" do they automatically loose their humanity and all of their
rights? And I might add that even if an individual is in prison they are
still an American.
>> Many programs throughout the country involving prisoners growing
food(such as Sneed's project in San Francisco) donate a portion of the crop
to soup kitchens, back to the community from which many of the prisoners
came from. The prisoners are working to give something back to their
community and are learning about responsibility and building marketable job
skills. By working on farms, especially small organic farms prisoners would
have the opportunity to learn about marketing, accounting and advertising,
giving them experiences, which can open up worlds to them never before
> Why would consumers not be told about who was growing there food? I
> would think people would appreciate knowing that the food they are buying
> is also an investment in their community. To reduce the anger and reduce
the crime rate, isn't this one of the major concerns in almost every city
and town in America? I have been a member of many different types of co-ops
and one of their commonalties is to promote and support improving local
communities: socially, politically and economically. Prison labor would be
helping local growers to increase their crop yield and their economic
The future is a rapidly changing place, everyday we learn more about the
agri-chemical/life science companies genetically engineered products, along
with the effects of herbicides and pesticides. The challenge to organic
farming is to make it more cost effective so that it can be marketed and
readily available to a greater number of people at a lower cost. Yes this
is our capitalistic society. These are the confines we must operate within.
Sometimes you play with the bosses rules in order to win the game
> On Fri, 12 Mar 1999, Loren Muldowney wrote
>> I may never stop screaming.
>> I specifically boycott all goods made by prison labor, since it is
>> exploitative of not only of prisoners, but more importantly of those
>> working people who have NOT turned to crime as a lifestyle.
>> The organic agriculture paradigm was created by shunning short-term
>> economic theory. I don't think this will ever fly, if the consumers
>> know about it; it would have to be kept from them intentionally. Since
>> the point of organic marketing is to make full information available to
>> the consumer, this lovely scenario would be better pursued in the
>> "conventional" agriculture sphere. I just heard they are cutting the
>> tails off of dairy cows for "economic" reasons, so probably they
>> wouldn't bat an eye at this suggestion either.
>> Not only that, but some our more sleazy mall stores have been using the
>> "made in america" marketing, which appeals to those who deliberately
>> support working non-criminal fellow citizens, to label goods made by
>> prisoners as "made in america." It is a "solution" which "works" right
>> at this moment, because many people are simply unaware that it is going
>> on. Most people currently believe it to be illegal, being so clearly
>> repugnant a concept.
>> I can't wait to post this incredible suggestion at the natural foods
>> coop and see everybody mobilize for the boycott.
>> > Much of the prison population is illiterate, farm work is a learned low
>> > skill profession that does not require literacy. Individuals would be
>> > outside growing food which would provide emmence psychological and self
>> > esteem benefits as well as practical job skills for their futures after
>> > prison.
>> Sounds like a great idea, if you propose that these people should be
>> taught to grow their own organic food for their own consumption. They
>> would learn all the skills and improve their diets.
>> > What happens when
>> > they are released? How are they any better off?
>> Then when they are released, they will know enough to begin organic
>> farming, and ride the crest of this wonderful wave of commerce. Surely
>> that's what you mean?
> > > I'm curious if there are any farmers out there, who
>> > contract out to prisoners, and how open growers are to this idea.
>> I suppose we'd all like to know that! Well, here's one more reason to
>> only buy from people we know personally. So much for the integrity of
>> Just when I think I can no longer be surprised.....
>> Loren Muldowney
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