Chain Gang

Prisoners Help Relieve State Deficits

Here’s one booming part of the new economy: prison labor. Officials have been expanding the practice of prison labor to balance cuts in federal financing and shrinking tax revenue, using prisoners to perform services that private contractors or government employees performed before the recession. Republican Sen. John Ensign of Nevada introduced a bill last month to require all low-security prisoners to work 50 hours a week. "These are nickel-and-dime attempts to cut budgets, but they add up," said an expert on state budgets in Georgia. In Florida, where the budget was cut by $4.6 billion this year, analysts say inmate farming could save $2.4 million a year - a relatively small amount, but enough for Florida's new governor, Rick Scott, to pledge $2.5 million to have more inmates grow their own food.