Miami-Dade Proposal To Use Prison Labor Called Unconstitutional

There's a name for workers brought to the job in chains


MIAMI — Reacting to the news that Miami-Dade County wants to use accused criminals for manual labor in return for paying off debts, lawyers across the state say such a program could be rule unconstitutional.

The proposed ordinance aims to save taxpayer dollars by offering "pretrial detainees" the option of cleaning roads, bridges and doing maintenance work if they cannot afford bail — all before they are convicted by a court of law.

"If we take the presumption of innocence seriously — that people should be deemed innocent until proven guilty — it makes no sense to subject pre-trial and pre-adjudication detainees to involuntary servitude," said Noah Weisbord, law professor at Florida International University College of Law. "They must have a choice."