...But not because I think the guy they are trying to smear should be reelected, I fully support Lehman's race. I am irritated purely because they are wrong on moral and progressive grounds... I may have some angry people out here because of this post, but stay with me read through it and then do a gut check on whether or not I make any "progressive" sense on this one.
I disagree with One Wisconsin Now on their post on the Racine lit piece that Citizen Action is putting out that was torn apart by the Racine Times. I personally think Citizen Action was wrong to exploit the issue of prisoners working in nursing homes by preying on the fear and racism in Racine.
The reasons people are in prison vary so much that it's impossible to pigeon hole them into being monsters with no further use in society at all.
In fact that county program could very well have been presented by a Democrat as a rehabilitation program teaching job skills to non-violent offenders so they may be able to reintegrate into society after their release with skills that could keep them from reoffending. Do I care if my grandmother's laundry is being done by a recovering crack addict learning life skills? Not really if they are supervised and their crimes non-violent and they are not being exploited.
We need to be careful as Progressives about how far we will go to smear a candidate. With proper supervision, screening of workers and goals, our health care crisis could be quelled by utilizing these opportunities to create more skilled healthcare workers rather than more criminals through our justice system.
All that being said, I was an organizer for SEIU and understand to potential to use this as a union busting tactic and the potential for worker abuse (medical laundry is probably the nastiest stuff on this planet). These issues need to be weighted for their importance to creating a better society as a whole.
I am also well versed on the problems with the chain gangs of old. How they were used to keep the poor and minorities out of unions and actually encouraged society to lock up more specifically African American and eventually poor whites as a work around to replace the slave workforce in the South. The genesis of Jim Crow.
How do you fix that? I have some progressive ideas that would work for all concerned. By mandating state and federal worker standards on the workers in the workforce. Require that they be paid the average union wage for the work so that employers have no advantage in hiring them (10% of the wage to be used for immediate use, 10% miniumum required to be saved or invested for use upon release to restart their lives and the other 80% to be used to care for their children or immediate family member's needs while in prison).
Make the employer's pick up a healthcare premium paid to the state for the prisoners they employ in their workforce. Insist on mandatory and unannounced OSHA and workplace visits and standards and take all complaints of worker abuse to an arbitration council. Since not all employers would accept the rules, you leave a balance in the workforce. All these benefits could even be negotiated by the state through a union negotiator so the union can build relationships with the prisoners to help them find employment upon release. We as progressives need new ideas on how to solve things like the prison problem. By applying our values, we can make even bad ideas work well for society.
I believe people can be reformed and work programs that are well run and supervised could make a difference in individual people's lives.
My point is that before randomly bashing a program just to make your opponent look bad before an election...a la the Rove political strategy, we need to live our progressive values and stand proudly on new ideas.
We should be also always be vigilant that we are not painting all prisoners into one pallette and instead as progressives be especially careful about sending messages that once an offender has offended, they are no longer any use to society.
You are missing the forest for the trees...