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Legislation would keep Private Prison Labor from competing with Free World Labor

In late February, State Rep. Jim McReynolds (D-Lufkin) and State Sen. Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville), introduced companion bills to drastically alter state prison labor programs.  According to the legislators, both bills, (SB 1169 and HB 1914) would stop job loss and unfair competition by:

  • eliminating sweetheart deals and requiring businesses using prison labor to pay a fair market value for use of facilities;
  •  moving oversight of the program from the Prison Industry Oversight Authority to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) board;
  • preventing TDCJ from approving contracts resulting in job loss anywhere in Texas;
  • allowing employers to submit a sworn statement that their business would be hurt and jobs could be lost by approval of a specific prison industry contract;
  • requiring job and product descriptions be specific so employers can recognize a prison industry contract that would unfairly threaten their business;
  • creating notification for area businesses and posting information about programs online; and
  •  notifying the state senator and state representative in whose districts the project would be located.

The measure would certainly increase transparency and accountability for such contracts.  It is a significant measure from the chair of the House Corrections Committee.

In related materials, the legislators cite a specific example of the company Direct Trailer, which paid only $1 a year to lease 70,000 sqare feet of factory from a local state prison and advertised they could sell their products for less because of prison labor.  

A competitor of Direct Trailer is Lufkin Industries Inc. which claims that it could not fairly compete and sell products for similar prices.  As a result, Lufkin Industies recently closed its trailer manufacturing division and layed off 150 employees.  

We will be tracking the developments of these bills as they navigate their way through the legislature.  Stay tuned...

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Those private prison people in Lockhart sure don't like the bill. I thought Lockhart's mayor was going to have a heart attack when he testified in front of the Corrections Committee on March 26,2009. Its sad the mayor spends lots of time bringing low paying jobs to his community. Rep. McReynolds did not need to be attacked by him. McReynolds is a good and honest man. The mayor owes him an apology. I'm glad the Honorable Mayor James Bertram is not my mayor. I was glad to see people on both sides of the aisle tell the mayor the truth about Rep. McReynolds. Word of advise to Mayor James Bertram, don't make "knee jerk" statesments and don't go to bat for sleaze bag groups like Geo. The great citizens of Lockhart should see a video of their mayor in action: