On August 16, 2005, The County of Fresno entered into a contract with the City of Fresno to provide for the beautification of city-owned buildings and grounds. As part of this agreement, 50 County jail inmates will be used to pick up trash and litter, remove weeds and dead brush, care for medians, and provide landscape maintenance. No money will be exchanged between the City and the County and everyone asked to comment on this relationship believes this to be a win-win situation. "Everybody benefits" is the word around the halls of government.
The Fresno Bee is reporting that Georgeanne White, Mayor Alan Autry's chief of staff, said that "no one at the council meeting had a good word to say about how much of Fresno looks." And trash was not all that was talked about. In their discussion of the contract, City Council members voiced concerns about nearly every aspect of the proposed relationship with the County. Yet no one addressed the issue of labor, wages and the use of inmates to perform work without pay. According to one law enforcement official, inmates assigned to work details such as this one receive no compensation for the work they perform. And County jail staff believe unpaid labor (sometimes known to the outside world as slavery) instills pride in the inmates. It appears that the entire Fresno City Council is oblivious to the principle of "an honest day's work for an honest day's pay."
John Crockford, co-chair of the Fresno County Peace and Freedom Party, believes the absence of discussion of labor in situations like this is indicative of the contempt our elected representatives have for working people. "This is an example of a group of people in positions of authority who refuse to recognize the value of regular working people and the contribution they make to our community," Crockford said. "The County jail inmates who work to produce a cleaner Fresno deserve the respect and dignity due all workers. Indeed, they deserve the respect and dignity due all people, regardless of their position in society."