ATLANTA, GA-- The state of Georgia is using transitional prison inmates to work in south Georgia's Vidalia onion industry this spring.
The program is an update of a failed program introduced in 2011, in which the state sent probationers into vegetable fields to help ease a labor shortage that followed the passage of a tough new immigration law. Growers complained that probationers were unreliable and slow compared to migrant workers who have historically worked in vegetable fields.
The Corrections department has sent ten transitional inmates from Smith State Prison to work in a packing and grading facility run by an onion grower in Glennville, which is near Vidalia. Transitional inmates are in the process of completing their prison sentences.
Grower Wayne Durrance says he's used transitional inmates, and says it's been a success so far. Durrance says they're motivated and work hard.
Onion growers have complained that they don't have enough labor to harvest this spring's Vidalia crop, because the state's immigration law chased away Hispanic migrant workers.