Small Upstate Towns, Dependent on Slave Labor

I exaggerate, but not by much. The New York Times reports on New York towns lobbying to keep their local prisons from closing down:

The reliance on Camp Gabriels extends well beyond jobs. Small businesses have staked their survival on the prison workers who patronize their stores. Local governments and charities, meanwhile, have come to depend on inmate work crews to clear snow from fire hydrants, maintain parks and hiking trails, mow the lawns at cemeteries and unload trucks at food pantries.

Every winter, the crews help build an ice palace in the nearby village of Saranac Lake, cutting thick blocks of ice that can weigh up to 700 pounds. The palace is the main attraction of the village’s Winter Carnival and attracts thousands to the area.

“All those services, when you put that into dollars, there’s no way we’d be able to hire people to perform them,” said Mary Ellen Keith, supervisor of the town of Franklin, which relies on the crews to cut overgrown brush from the sides of 67 miles of local roads, among other tasks.

No inmates were interviewed for the article.