By Santonio Murff
The State of Texas has over 100,000 able-bodied men and women incarcerated; most languishing away irretrievable years of their lives in a perpetual state of extreme boredom, either self-medicating on soap operas and board games or squandering the hours of each day away in some other non-productive manner. A drought in funding has shriveled up most of the educational opportunities once available to offenders. You can step on almost any unit in The State of Texas and bear witness to one of our nations greatest wastes in untapped potential; healthy and willing men and women, who would love nothing more than to turn out to a work assignment everyday and begin NOW living positive productive lives. I speak for us, one and all, when I say: "Put us to work!"
Put us to work and give our lives a sense of purpose. Put us to work and allow us to shoulder up to responsibilities. Put us to work and permit us the pride that comes from earning your own keep. Put us to work and allow us to contribute to the prosperity of our country by contributing millions of dollars a years in taxed revenue that our country and state could surely use. Put us to work and empower us to ease the financial strains on our families. Put us to work and prepare us NOW to be productive contributing citizens upon our release. The benefits to putting us to work at a miniscule wage are both numerous and compelling!
Which begs the question, why hasn't someone proposed a plan to do just that: Put us to work? Simply put, they were merely waiting on this The San-Man Speaks piece to break it all down for easy to understand implementation (smile and wink). So here we go...
First and foremost, Texas will never pay its offenders for their labor. I am not proposing that they do so. What I am proposing is a win-win situation for all parties: Big Business, The State of Texas, taxpayers, offenders and their families, and ultimately The United States of America.
My proposition is relatively simple. Texas will contract out its offenders with Big Businesses that bid on contract to build T.D.C.J. approved factories and facilities where "approved" offenders who meet established criteria will be employed for 40 hour work weeks. The incentives for Big Businesses comes not only in tax breaks, but also in their only having to pay offenders "one-half" of the prevailing minimum wage for the state, allowing them to quickly recoup their initial investments and turn a very tidy profit, while contributing to the progression of their countrymen and women.
The State of Texas gets an enormous boost in their state coffers; with not only the millions of additional dollars in taxed revenue that will be generated yearly by offenders, but also by utilizing half of their earned wages for their rooming, boarding, and--where applicable--education.
Offenders will be able to provide for themselves, contribute to their family's care and pay restitution and/or child support where ordered by the court. The taxpayers will no longer have to foot the bill for tens of thousands of able and willing men and women who have been sentenced to ridiculously long sentences; the vast majority for non-violent drug offenses.
Offender's families will get a break from the exploitive phone systems (23 cents a minute for local calls!), the ever-rising commissary prices, and the outlandish $100 we are now charged for any medical attention we request; rather it be a twisted-ankle or the common cold, which in most cases you'll be asked a few questions and given a few tablets of Ibuprofen (T.D.C.J.'s cure all for everything short of a gunshot wound).
The indisputable benefits to all parties are clear for all to see!
Unpatriotic, pessimistic detractors and critics need to understand that the U.S. now has over 2.3 million of its citizens incarcerated. Over 95% of these men and women will be returning to society at some point. Wouldn't you rather millions of rehabilitated, responsible men and women of integrity with a solid work ethnic living beside or around you than some bitter, disenfranchised and desperate ex-felon who has spent years self-medicating on Jerry Springer and other brain-rot? Once our debts have been paid, why not give us a chance? Give us a chance to step out of here with more than the $50 and bus ticket that Texas provides. Give us a chance to utilize this time wisely, and exit these doors with a foundation as we try to rebuild our lives and become contributing citizens.
We will not be taking jobs from our other countrymen and women. A workforce will be created to build these factories and facilities. A workforce will be needed to maintain and supervise these factories and facilities. So we are actually creating jobs for them! But, what all need to fully realize is that we are in this together! We are all citizens of this great country of America, and we should all be working together to make it better tomorrow than it was yesterday. I repeat, TWO MILLION, incarcerated men and women will be coming soon to a community near you. What they have done in here will often determine what they will do out there.
It is in the interest of us all, and our families, our communities, and our country for us to prepare them for SUCCESS!
Very few people know that The 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution abolished slavery for all BUT those duly convicted of a crime. It is this “but,” this loophole, which allows Texas to exploit its offender population for millions of dollars in free labor every year.
Texas offenders do not get paid a single cent, but must turn out for whatever work assignment that they are given by the administration, unless they can obtain verification from the medical department that they have some ailment or illness to prevent them from being able to work. This, I dare do say, results in some of the greatest acting that will never be seen on the silver screen.
No one wants to be exploited. No one wants to work around food, but go hungry. We are fed elementary school portions, on those same elementary school trays. One obese man on this very unit just couldn't take it. He ate a small square of cornbread. He was written a stealing from the kitchen case, moved to the field squad, and charged three dollars for that thin, domino-sized piece of cornbread!
The field squad is an obsolete barbaric practice that should have been outlawed a decade ago. You have thousands of men with aggies, marching and chopping grass (or merely knocking up dirt into their lungs if there is no grass) when a dozen men and lawnmower could do the same job faster and more efficiently. It is a ridiculous practice that is done more for punishment and degradation than need and necessity.
Texas will not give up its millions upon millions generated through this free labor. I am not suggesting that they do so. Offenders will be necessary to keep the units clean, fed and producing products that generate these millions for The Texas Department of Correction. I have just the men for the job. Thousands of men who are ready and willing, but who have been exiled to medium custody or closed custody for some trivial disciplinary case like the "Cornbread Thief." It is inexplicable that these men are place on medium or closed custody, but then only allowed a job in the field squad until they regain their custody. These are not violent, chronically troubled offenders I'm talking about. I'm speaking on the thousands who may have had some stamps without their name and number on it; who may have had some radio wire to pick up better reception on their radio; who may have had some bleach to clean their clothes.
I am not arguing their guilt. I am arguing their ability to still be able to work and be productive as more than a human-lawnmower!
Before I changed my life, I spent eight and a half years in the hole, administration segregation, for being a member of a gang. 24 hours a day, in a windowless room where I could extend my arms and touch the walls on both sides. I wasn't allowed out for educational opportunities, church service, nor a job. You have thousands of men right now who are languishing away in those same dire conditions for an adolescent mistake they made years ago. Texas requires years for a confirmed offender to prove his non-affiliation and then go to a thousand-name waiting list to complete the G.R.A.D. Program and then be released back to general population. The grade program was graduating only 17 offenders a month! That is all that they were equipped to deal with. It took me four years just to reach it!
These are the offenders who need to be given a chance, slowly reintegrated back into the workforce on the unit, with future employment at the Big Business facilities as an added incentive for them to abide by the rules and continue their positive progression. I've discussed this to death with my fellow offenders. I've queried several officers. I've picked the brain of your fellow taxpayers. We are all stumped to the reason why the offenders in Texas have not been put to work at a minuscule wage. It is obvious to all that it would be in all's best interest. So weigh in America! Contact somebody! Text Rick Perry! Send Obama some letters! Bring Oprah back! Do whatever is necessary, but let's get this movement going to put us to work! I speak for the mass majority of Texas prisoners when I saw, WE ARE READY AND WILLING!
Santonio Murff #00773394
12071 FM 3522
Abilene TX 79601