The BS fixation on “prison slave labor”

While South Dakota Bill Stegmeier fixed the misstatement his BS committee made in an ad accusing the state of opposing Amendment E because it wants “prison slave labor,” he ain’t gonna let the argument go.

In a new ad headlined “Is Justice For Sale In South Dakota?”, BS now says South Dakota’s prison industry, which operates under the name Pheasantland Industries, is “one of South Dakota’s largest employers” instead of the state’s “largest employer.” At just under 300 employees if you include inmates who work for it, it isn’t within the top 50 employers in the state. I guess that’s a matter of how you define “one of the largest.”

But BS is really hung up on slaves. Here’s what the ad says:

Did you know that on a per capita basis South Dakota’s prison population is greater than each of our neighboring states?Is the South Dakota prison population higher because South Dakotans are such bad people compared to our neighbors?

Or is it higher because our judicial system has an incentive to provide slave employees for Pheasantland Industries?

Who benefits from this cheap prison slave labor? It’s certainly not our South Dakota small businesses.

Will you or one of your family members be the next inmate “hired” by Pheasantland Industries?

Yes, it appears that it really is… “All About the Money!”

(Emphasis in original).

I thought maybe the first ad was simply an aberration, the result of some sort of fever dream. But no. BS actually seems to believe the judicial system in South Dakota exists to “provide slave employees.” Of course, once again it’s not too hard to demonstrate just how bogus many of the claims in the ad are.

For example, the last annual report for Pheasantland Industries dispels any thought that it’s “all about the money.” In fiscal 2005, Pheasantland Industries had operating income of $171,390. I don’t think many of “South Dakota’s largest employers” would be quite happy with those “profits.” Moreover, while inmate wages generally are 25 cents an hour, some 22 percent of the inmates in the program work for what is termed private industry, where they are paid prevailing local market wages. Those inmates were paid $477,237. Of that, $28,634 went to compensate victims of their crimes, another $28,634 went for family support obligations while $43,576 was paid in federal taxes and another $36,532 in social security. Isn’t it horrible inmates are paid market wages and some of that money goes to compensate their victims and support their families?

Of course, that’s not the only thing that’s deceptive and misleading about the ad. It refers to “Prison Industries” as one of the “fastest growing companies in America today” and proclaims in bold type: “Prison Industries is soon to be the largest Manufacturing and Service Company in the United States.” Too bad the “Prison Industries” to which the ad refers is not South Dakota’s prison industries. Rather, it is Federal Prison Industries, Inc., also known as UNICOR. FPI is a wholly-owned federal government corporation that is part of the federal prison system, not the South Dakota corrections system.

Since the BS committee has never worried about letting the facts get in the way before, they certainly aren’t forthright in this ad. And, of course, what probably has the BS clan upset is the fact some of the private industry money from Pheasantland Industries went to pay federal taxes. After all, BS wants to destroy that system, too.

As I pointed out in a recent post, I wish the BS committee would buy more advertising. They often do the best in establishing that Amendment E truly is part and parcel of the lunatic fringe.

Reason is not compatible with zeal run mad.

Robert South

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