Saturday, January 31, 2009

Cook County's Slave Labor

Slave labor is alive and thriving in Cook County, USA. CNB photographed slave labor at work in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood on January 30, 2009. The men shown in these photos were shoveling snow at the intersection of N. Broadway and W. Wilson. (A year ago, on January 27, 2008, The Bench did a story about slave laborers in Rogers Park.) The slaves, also called "inmates" or "prisoners," are in the custody of the Cook County Sheriff, and are put to work in a program called "S.W.A.P." That stands for "Sheriff’s Work Alternative Program." It should be noted that the words "inmate," "prisoner" do not appear in the Cook County Sheriff's description of the program. Although the men are not literally in chains, the S.W.A.P. work units are essentially chain gangs. Here is a description of the S.W.A.P. program, taken from the Cook County Sheriff's web site: "...the Sheriff’s Work Alternative Program (S.W.A.P.) has been one of the most successful, fastest-growing and beneficial programs in the history of the criminal justice system in Cook County. It puts drunk drivers and other low-level offenders to work on the streets of Cook County, doing everything from assisting the Medical Examiner in handling the bodies of victims during the 1994 heat crisis to sandbagging during the 1991 Chicago Flood and the cleaning up after 1996 suburban floods, to removing graffiti and beautifying the County’s public property. Everyone benefits: city and suburban citizens; the jail from reduced overcrowding; and the offenders themselves, who show low recidivism afterwards." The Cook County Sheriff's web site proudly notes this: Under a partnership with the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), SWAP teams are cleaning buses at the CTA’s five busiest terminals, “This cooperative program gives us cleaner buses at no cost, and the offenders are performing useful work,” said [former] CTA Chairman Valerie Jarrett. "At no cost." Indeed. Local officials love free S.W.A.P. slave labor. Slaves don't usually charge their masters much for the labor they provide. Let's look again at the description above, but this time we'll add the word "slave" to it: "...the Sheriff’s Work Alternative Program (S.W.A.P.) has been one of the most successful, fastest-growing and beneficial programs in the history of the criminal justice system in Cook County. It puts slaves to work on the streets of Cook County, doing everything from assisting the Medical Examiner in handling the bodies of victims during the 1994 heat crisis to sandbagging during the 1991 Chicago Flood and the cleaning up after 1996 suburban floods, to removing graffiti and beautifying the County’s public property. Everyone benefits: city and suburban citizens; the jail from reduced overcrowding; and the slaves themselves, who show low recidivism afterwards." What did former CTA Chairman Valerie Jarrett say about S.W.A.P.? Again, adding the word "slaves" to the statement: Under a partnership with the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), slaves are cleaning buses at the CTA’s five busiest terminals, “This cooperative program gives us cleaner buses at no cost, and the slaves are performing useful work." Sheriff’s Work Alternative Programs are used in other counties around the country, not just in Cook County. Slavery seems to be a popular source of labor for the governments of those counties, and the cities and town within them. Free slave labor takes away paid work for non-offenders. Every time a S.W.A.P. group shovels a sidewalk, it could be taking away a paid job from a local teenager. An example of this is the Highway Department of the Township of Schaumburg (IL). In a message from Robert Fecarotta, Highway Commissioner, he lists things that can be expected from his department in 2009. One of them is excerpted here (emphasis added): Continued participation in the S.W.A.P. Program. The department will continue to use this free labor force provided by the Sheriff’s Work Alternative Program. (www.schaumburgtownship.org/highway.htm) How many paying jobs are killed by that? How many people would get that highway department work - and be paid for it - if Schaumburg did not use Cook County's "free labor force?" RELATED: Schaumburg Township Highway Department Government greed getting in way of agricultural progress American Chain Gang The return of the chain gangs CNB RSS Feed

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