Jim ButlerState Representative Jim Butler was appointed earlier this year to the Ohio House to replace State Senator Peggy Lehrer, who was appointed to replace State Senator Jon Husted, who still had two years left in his term when he was elected Secretary of State.

Jim Butler also just happens to be someone I got to know in law school really well, so forgive me if I appear to pull my punches.  But this is hard to pass up. 

From the Dayton Daily News:

State Rep. Jim Butler, R-Oakwood, said his plan would create secure facilities that are “more like a factory than a prison” where non-violent inmates would manufacture items like flat-screen televisions or cell phones. The factories would be overseen by state employees, he said, and the goods would be introduced into the market under contract with Ohio companies.

“I think it would do a great deal to lower the cost of incarceration,” Butler said. “It would have the potential to revolutionize the way we treat prisoners and deal with incarceration.”

Before you say “Chinese labor camps,”  State Representative Butler already has a response for you:

No for-profit company would be directly involved with inmates, he said. “We don’t want to have a private company that profits off of prison labor,” he said. The revenues would not be permitted to exceed 95 percent of the costs of incarceration because “you never want to get to a point where it’s profitable to incarcerate someone.”

State Representative Butler voted for the Kasich budget.  The one that privatizes five of Ohio’s state prisons… in which all the bidders are for-profit private prison companies.

The inmates would manufacture only items that aren’t built in the U.S. Past efforts to expand Ohio Penal Industries have run into opposition on the grounds that prison labor is unfair competition with American workers. But Butler said he sees no ethical reason not to compete with companies that have shipped jobs overseas.

I refuse to believe that with Ohio’s unemployment going up, we should give what should be high-paying manufacturing jobs and let the State profit by giving it to prison labor instead.  I refuse to believe that the only way we can have manufacturing in this State is through prison labor.

How does a for-profit company not profit from this bill?  They get a contract with the State to pay for prison labor.  The State’s revenues are  capped at 95% of the cost of incarceration which is $25,345 a year.  So for the price of $24,000 a worker, some Ohio company can produce cell phones and flat screen tvs using prison labor.  Don’t think that gives the company an ability to profit from prison labor?  Really?

No private company would pay the State for this unless it was cheaper than higher the employers and building (or renting) the factory themselves.  It’s naive to think that private companies aren’t profiting by these contracts simply because the State is getting the money and only to help defray the costs of incarceration.

The inmates would manufacture only items that aren’t built in the U.S. Past efforts to expand Ohio Penal Industries have run into opposition on the grounds that prison labor is unfair competition with American workers. But Butler said he sees no ethical reason not to compete with companies that have shipped jobs overseas.

Most inmates are incarcerated for drug-related crimes, not crimes of economic necessity (except for drug-related thefts.)  What good is training a prisoner a skill that he can only use … if he is incarcerated or moves to China?  I’m all for rehabilitation and providing inmates with the skills and assistance they might need to not re-offend.  But what’s the utility to them if it only gets them out early only to be trained for a job they cannot find in the private sector here?

I’m sorry, but if you’ve got to go this far to explain why this isn’t similar to a communist-style labor camp… then maybe it’s because it is too similar. Still, nothing like seeing a State Representative in the 21st Century advocate for a modern adaptations of the 17th Century workhouse.

First Collector: At this festive time of year, Mr. Scrooge, it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the poor and destitute.
Ebenezer: Are there no prisons?
First Collector: Plenty of prisons.
Ebenezer: And the union workhouses – are they still in operation?
First Collector: They are. I wish I could say they were not.
Ebenezer: Oh, from what you said at first I was afraid that something had happened to stop them in their useful course. I’m very glad to hear it.

First we privatized the prison.  Now, we privatize the prisoners. 

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  • Just when I thought stupid just got stupider.

  • Annekarina

    There is something very very wrong here.  I can put my finger on it, but think I won’t.  It would just be too extremely immoral to do so.

  • Anonymous

    Imagine the headline: “China protests USA to WTO over Ohio’s labor camps.”

  • What work would these inamtes be expected to do exactly in a hi-tech modern electronics manufacturing fascility? Process enigneering? Six Sigma Analysis? Defect diagnosis and repair? these are highly skilled jobs requiring high levels of training and education.

    This state Rep doesn’t understand modern manufacturing.

  • Anonymous

    You’re right…. the plan would have worked but for that ONE oversight…. I guess if you’re doing life you’ve got time to learn microprocessing architecture.

  • Anonymous

    This is an awesome idea!  Since no clothing is manufactured in the USA anymore we can turn the prisons into sweatshops.  They can manufacture a line of casual wear:

    K asich’s  K omfortable  K lothes

  • Anonymous

    I’ve got a better idea. Let’s give some prisoners jobs as state legislators and put any state legislator who comes up with wacky ideas like this in prison.

  • Xx

    Wait a second.  Is this how they get around saying that it isn’t governments duty to create jobs?    So what next, are they going to make it a crime to be smart so they can staff these “Ohio Slave Labor” camps? 

    “You, yes you there with the engineering degree, face down on the ground or we will shoot.”

    “Raid at Smith Lab on OSU campus results in the arrest of 5 post docs and three professors.  One cop was slightly injured when a research assistant pointed a laser at his eyes.”

  • Green Iris

    you just know the teabaggers are going to love this. the same emails will be flying about this just like the Az sheriff.

  • Anonymous

    You will have unemployed workers committing crimes so they can go to prison, receive food, clothing, health and dental care, and jobs! 

  • Hungry Coyote

    If the workers don’t meet production expectations will their organs be harvested for the greater good?

  • Random Thoughts

    And from where do we get the parts to manufacture said cell phones and flat-screen TVs? Would they not have to be bought from companies that are overseas, thereby eating up any revenue from this brilliant plan?

    While I understand that there are some resourceful people in prisons, making weapons out of dental floss and plastic spoons, I can’t imagine a flat-screen TV made out of those things would work so well.

  • OHG! (Oh His God!)

  • Anonymous

    Where DO these people come from?  That is classic medieval.  Next they will want to allow guns in bars!  Oh, I forgot, they already have!

  • Annekarina

    What till these so called prisoners start making – what are those things called?  Oh I’ll go for  the phonic spelling – tazers.

  • Annekarina

    Stealing people from MIT

  • Annekarina

    Hmmm…ok – I’ve had caffeine and done my meditation.  Now I get the riddle here.   This story has played before many times – in Fiction my dear friends.  Ah yes, mr. Butler, “The Dark Side of Time”.  There is a French film done by Luc Besson – “La Femme Nikita” – of course you have heard of it and if you have, you know what it is about.  Then Joel Surnow of “24” fame picked it up as a successful TV series which now runs again as a new series.  All about prisoners doing government work in government organizations.  hmm…yeah…maybe butler spent too much time on the golf course with Surnow and Rush, just suggesting…

    Ever check out the glasses that “cleaners” wear in both productions and in all of Besson’s productions along this line?  Those “Buddy Holly” things.  Ever see that scene in the TV series where Nikita says “I need housekeeping?”  Hmmm……..Puts a different “focus” on things.

    Perhaps life is not stranger than fiction.

  • Modern Esquire

    If you’ve ever toured our Statehouse, you’d learn that it was built with convict labor.   The display also hints that some of the convicts crimes consisted of being an experienced mason.  So, some of you aren’t as hyperbolic as you’d think.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that M. Butler, ESQ, has been reading too many Victor Hugo and Fyodor Dostoyevsky “CliffsNotes”.  His idea belongs in the 19th century; now that’s conservative. When did you say the State House was built?
     

  • Anonymous

    Mr. Butler should leave comedy to the professionals.

  • Hey everybody, don’t you recognize this? This is Kasich’s jobs plan! 

    That’s the plan for Ohio…you have to go to prison to get a job!

  • I think he actually ripped off the idea from the “The Shawshank Redemption” (remember Warden Norton’s program?).

    Stephen King should sue him.

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