The Senate has voted unanimously in favor of legislation from Sen. Patti Anne Lodge, R-Huston, to allow the state Board of Correction to contract out inmate labor to harvest fruit or do other agricultural labor involving perishable food products. “This is a voluntary program for inmates,” Lodge told the Senate. “This will help them develop a work ethic and give them skills. It will help them when they are released.” Plus, she said it will help ag producers who have faced labor shortages, leaving crops unharvested. “I think one of the saddest things I saw this year, this fall, was to see the fruit on the ground because we couldn’t find laborers to pick it, and then this winter to see the apples frozen on the trees in Sunny Slope,” Lodge said.
The bill, SB 1374a, now moves to a House committee.