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02/24/2006 Entry: "Civilian Inmate Labor Program"

I am at risk of overusing the word "chilling" as a description of news stories. Perhaps it is merely that I am up late at night, writing in a less-than-warm farmhouse. It is, aftrer all, winter and Canada. In between blogging and attending to other business, I am throwing wood into the airtight stove, which does a fine job of heating the house but which went out shorly after we retired early. What news story tempts me to drag out that overused adjective? Again it is from Consortium News: Labor Camps. So is this one of the ways the Bush Administration will deal with an acute recruitment shortage into the military; they'll use forced civilian labor on military grounds to free up the soldiers? The changes in the referenced law went into effect on February 14th. Happy Valentine's Day.

The commentary reads: There also was another little-noticed item posted at the U.S. Army Web site, about the Pentagon’s Civilian Inmate Labor Program [.pdf file]. This program “provides Army policy and guidance for establishing civilian inmate labor programs and civilian prison camps on Army installations.”

The Army document, first drafted in 1997, underwent a “rapid action revision” on Jan. 14, 2005. The revision provides a “template for developing agreements” between the Army and corrections facilities for the use of civilian inmate labor on Army installations.

On its face, the Army’s labor program refers to inmates housed in federal, state and local jails. The Army also cites various federal laws that govern the use of civilian labor and provide for the establishment of prison camps in the United States, including a federal statute that authorizes the Attorney General to “establish, equip, and maintain camps upon sites selected by him” and “make available … the services of United States prisoners” to various government departments, including the Department of Defense.

Though the timing of the document’s posting – within the past few weeks –may just be a coincidence, the reference to a “rapid action revision” and the KBR contract’s contemplation of “rapid development of new programs” have raised eyebrows about why this sudden need for urgency.

These developments also are drawing more attention now because of earlier Bush administration policies to involve the Pentagon in “counter-terrorism” operations inside the United States.

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