If you’ve followed the litigation in Plata/Coleman from the mid-2000s forward, you probably think you’ve seen it all: the dawdling, the evasion maneuvers, the political blackmail. But today I have something really special for you. As you might know, the court has ordered a special parole regime to ensure early releases. What did the Attorney General’s office have to say? The L.A. Times reports:
Most of those prisoners now work as groundskeepers, janitors and in prison kitchens, with wages that range from 8 cents to 37 cents per hour. Lawyers for Attorney General Kamala Harris had argued in court that if forced to release these inmates early, prisons would lose an important labor pool.
Yes, you’ve read it right. The Attorney General’s office now opposes early releases BECAUSE THOSE WILL DEPRIVE IT OF A CHEAP LABOR FORCE. The prisons can only function if prisoners work in them, so… we need to keep them in.
I’m sure I don’t need to explain why this is a shockingly conscienceless rationale to keep people incarcerated and pay them abysmal wages, and much as I resist the unsubtle comparisons made in The New Jim Crow, this really, really reeks of postbellum resistance. Ugh. Shame on you, Ms. Harris.