Probationers Fill Poultry Plant Gap Left By Immigrants

GEORGIA - When a federal raid last year depleted most of the Crider poultry plant's workers, officials quickly sought out replacement employees, finding a steady supply of workers through the Georgia Department of Corrections.
calendar icon 15 October 2007
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An immigrant worker is arrested.

Under an informal, two-page agreement between the plant and the state agency, probationers from the Macon Diversion Center work at the plant packing boxes and processing chickens to pay off probation violation fines and to pay room-and-board charges at the diversion center, which is part-jail, part-halfway house.

Crider officials won't speak about the arrangement, but state officials say the probationers choose to work at Crider because it offers a competitive wage helping them pay fines and rejoin socieity. The jobs pay $6 to $10 an hour, plus a potential $2-an-hour attendance bonus and overtime for more than 40 hours of work a week, according to the department.

But a human rights group says some of the probationers end up becoming temporary indentured servants unable to work off their debt to society in a reasonable amount of time. Room and board at the center costs $600 a month. Probationers also must pay transportation costs for the 90-minute ride to Crider, medical bills and other expenses.

Sara Geraghty, an attorney with the Southern Center for Human Rights, says the room-and board costs are too high and the probationers end up stuck at the center because they can't make enough to pay off the fines.

But state officials say the average stay of probationers at the state's detention centers is up to six months.

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