The community service chain gang

Support your local sheriff
Involuntary roadside workers may not be as conspicuous as when they wore the stripes of yore, but they’re there. You thought those bright orange vests belonged to Parks and Rec personnel? Often they are citizens repaying a debt to society. More specifically, a sweat equity forfeiture to the sheriff.

Municipal courts and prosecutors levy community service hours as a penalty for misdemeanors. While we might envision “community service,” as lauded recently by Barack Obama, as helping a charity for example, or doing social work, in reality it’s whatever the local government needs done on the cheap. They pay the private agency which validates your hours, you work for free.

While municipal courts, and the traffic tickets that drive them, serve chiefly as cash registers for the local administrators, one can easily imagine the growing incentive to harvest unpaid labor for services that require work. These are jobs that could be going to union laborers, or landscaper contractors. Instead the burden is being put on the common citizen, usually the ones least able to fend off the arbitrary enforcement of law.

In the age of electronic ankle bracelets, work-release programs, and house arrest, there’s no need for striped coveralls and chains. Bring your own leather gloves and sunscreen and put your shoulder to the facade of our healthy looking community. It’s becoming a prison planet without us really seeing it. Wages are shrinking, the cost of living rises, the pursuit of happiness dissipates, and you’re throwing your back and your dignity into tasks that once upon a time you would have proclaimed were why we all pay taxes.

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Eric Verlo

About Eric Verlo

On sabbatical
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4 Responses to The community service chain gang

  1. Avatar Thomas Mc says:

    On the other hand, a lot of us out there cleaning up the highways are just ordinary citizen volunteers. We help clean up a 2 mile section of Hwy 24 at the Pikes Peak Hwy every month.

  2. Avatar Tony Logan says:

    I’m not sure why anybody should have to volunteer to do this work? Why doesn’t the government pay salaries to have such a basic service done? Isn’t that what government is for, to provide basic services like cleaning up the trash, maintaining order, etc. ?

  3. Avatar Jonah says:

    Ah, something on which I actually have experience…

    OK so that’s a lot of stuff but…

    in Tarrant, Johnson, Wise, Denton and a couple of other counties (Texas) Highway cleanup is contracted to Goodwill Industries Ft Worth.

    if you want a brochure of the actual saving over conscript slave labor (and it’s Substantial, VERY Substantial) I believe they still have the business brochure describing exactly that issue.

    I worked on it until The Foot and the dizzy spells made it impossible to continue.

    It’s also where I got a good clear glimpse for the first time of exactly how far in the red the Highway Trust fund actually operates.

    Good fuel for arguments against the Right Wing Talking Point that automobile drivers pay the entire cost for highway construction and maintenance. Just cleaning up the advertising for Coca Cola, McDonalds and WalMart errr litter that just happens to have the company logos stamped on each and every piece, drive by at 40 miles an hour and you’ll see their corporate logos flash before your eyes about 7 times a second…. Subliminally of course….

    just that aspect of road maintenance takes up more than half the funds from road and bridge fees and gasoline taxes. You know, the funds that are supposed to be paying ALL the bills…

    It costs more to use Convict Slave Labor because that involves some heavy duty security costs. Provided by high priced companies like Wackenhut and CCA.

    In Texas, convicts, most of them non-violent drug offenders, are compelled to work.

    The 9 inmates who died from heat prostration in their cells on the Coffield Unit, which is built like a greenhouse, has no air conditioning and the temperatures inside reach 140° F, had the fans they had paid for with money provided by their families (yes, it’s one of those Country Club prisons all right, uh huh…) and were confined to the cells inside the overheated building because they refused to be Slave Labor.

    Those are the ones the state actually admitted had died of the heat. There are others, weekly it seems, who die while in Ad Seg for refusing to work, but die of “natural causes” like diabetes, heart failure, kidney failure…

    Like somebody with heart or kidney problems is actually fit to go out in the East Texas summer heat and do heavy field labor. Especially if these guys are taking (and I know they are) drugs like Thorazine, Prolixin, Haldol, Elavil, Imipramine, Zyprexa…. Drugs which lower your heat tolerance.

    Drugs which are forced upon them because their refusal to be Slave Labor is “evidence of psychosis” They’re also painful to take even without the overheating.

    Sort of extra punishment ooops I forgot, Right Wing Talking point “convict coddling” for being diagnosed with mental illness, real or fabricated.

    All of this to put Taxpayer money into the hands of Corporate Investors, such as people who hold stock in Texas Correctional Industries or Wackenhut or CCA.

    Legitimized, state-sponsored Corporate Slavery.

  4. Avatar Old Bogus says:

    Tony Logan said:
    Isn’t that what government is for, to provide basic services like cleaning up the trash, maintaining order, etc. ?

    Not when the citizens of various jurisdictions in Colorado vote against paying for those services. So keeping the roads passable becomes the priority and everything else is secondary. Besides, roadside mowing reduces all the trash into mulch.

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