Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Affordable Housing Missing

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Affordable Housing Missing

Article excerpt

Byline: Tonyaa Weathersbee

Evans Labor Camp is closed now. But if it hadn't been, I wonder if anyone would have cared.

The East Palatka labor camp was shut down by Putnam County officials after the owner, Ronald Evans, who is also facing federal charges on labor violations, failed to do anything about problems like exposed wires, unvented heaters and sewage.

But while physical conditions at the camp led to its shutdown, it was the human conditions that should have sparked the most outrage --conditions that, if one listens to the tales of the former workers, seem to have been designed to deepen the enslavement of people who were already shackled by drugs, alcohol and destitution. When police raided the camp last month, they found 148 rocks of crack cocaine, 20 cases of beer and dozens of cases of cigarettes -- vices that former workers say they would be allowed to buy on credit, only to find that on payday, their checks would be whittled to nothing.

And, they say, there was no getting mad and quitting -- at least not if they owed money. Many did. One former worker, Will Anderson, told the Times-Union that he worked beside men harvesting cabbages who owed so much that they had resigned themselves to virtual slavery for the rest of their lives.

Interestingly, attorneys who work on behalf of rural farmworkers have said that conditions such at those at Evans -- who, for the record, hasn't been charged with selling drugs to workers -- aren't that uncommon. They're probably right. And people like Anderson -- people who struggle with drugs and alcohol and conviction records-- have been off the compassion radar screen for some time now. These men, trapped at the labor camp, generate more judgment than empathy.

That works out well for those who see profits in people who can't shake addictions .

It's a trend.

Take, for example, Federal Prison Industries. In the 1980s, the company began building more factories on prison grounds. They teach prisoners to build furniture and produce textiles and other goods that they, in turn, sell to the government.

The prisoners earn from 23 cents to $1. …

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