FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 10, 2008
Austin — Today state Senator Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville) continued his advocacy for an end to prison industry contracts which result in displacement of free-market jobs.
"I support helping prisoners develop work skills but not at the cost of jobs for law-abiding men and women," said Nichols.
Nichols testified at a hearing of the Private Sector Prison Industries Oversight Authority which met today to decide the fate of an inmate labor contract with Direct Trailers. At a previous meeting, Nichols, Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples and Rep. Jim McReynolds (D-Lufkin) called for an end to the contract with Direct Trailers due to the unfair competition to area free-market businesses. The final decision was delayed until today's hearing.
"Under this program, private businesses are forced to compete with the cut-rate costs of prison labor," said Nichols. "Competition is good, but this is not a level playing field."
The competition from prison labor already contributed to job losses in Angelina County. Late last year, Lufkin Industries, located just 85 miles from Direct Trailer's prison facility, announced the close of its trailer manufacturing, which employed 150 area residents. Lufkin Industries testified competition from Direct Trailer as one of the reasons for the closure.
Nichols argues the contract violates state and federal law prohibiting programs from operating when a labor surplus exists in the surrounding area. The Texas Workforce Commission identified a labor surplus five months before the most recent contract with Direct Trailer was signed.
"The law is clear; when the program costs area jobs the contract should be terminated and should it not have been signed in the first place," said Nichols.