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  1. This is one on which I think we have to “agree to disagree.” Even the US Constitution recognizes imprisonment as a form of involuntary servitude, as the 13th Amendment clearly shows (emphasis mine):

    Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

    While there is some semantic distinction to be made between “voluntary” and “forced” inmate labor, such a distiction is in my mind totally irrelevant. After all, one of the basic tenets of inmate behavior is that they are expected to comply with any and all directives (orders) given to them by the prison staff. In effect, it is “do as you are told, or things will go very badly for you.” And, it is very easy to phrase such a directive in a manner that appears to make it voluntary. This is part of the reason I have such a large amount of heartburn concerning the use of inmates as subjects in medical experiments: inmates are no more able to give “voluntary informed consent” to participation in such experiments than under-age girls are able to give informed consent to sexual relationships. Why? Because, the prison staff effectively has the power of life and death over the inmates in their custody.
    At one time (when I worked for the State of Texas), all the goods used in State government offices were produced by inmates. If I recall, a Federal judge said that was a no-no, and stopped the practice. I simply don’t think there is a difference between what was happening then, and what is being proposed in Colorado. (and other places.)

  2. A problem with getting Americans to do the farm work mentioned here is that it is seasonal work. You are not drawing from all Americans to do this, your applicant pool is those who can drop whatever job they have and go do this. What do you expect people to do for money the rest of the year when they aren’t bringing in a harvest?
    I think if for this particular farmer, if manual labor is no longer working out, then it is time for technology to step in as it has in many areas of farming and replace some of that. Obviously there was a time in history when people did not like the idea of being replaced by machines, but that no longer applies to brining in a new crop.

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