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Senate approves bill to expand inmate agriculture work program

Posted: 2:19 PM, Jan 24, 2018
Updated: 2018-01-25 01:57:34Z

A bill to allow Idaho prisoners to work in more areas of agriculture was approved by the Senate Wednesday. 

The bill eliminates the words "perishable" and "food" in the section of Idaho law pertaining to inmate labor in agriculture. 

The eliminations would expand industries in which inmates could work. This would include the production, harvesting and processing of horticultural, viticulture, forestry, dairy, livestock, poultry and bee products.

"In 2014, I brought similar legislation to this body which allowed inmate workers to only work with perishable farm products," the bill's sponsor Sen. Patti Anne Lodge, R-Huston, said. "It has been a successful program, not costing taxpayers and giving inmates and valuable work experience."

Lodge says Idaho's agricultural industries are facing worker shortages. 

"Even though there are people seeking work, they do not take field worker positions," Lodge said. "All of Idaho agriculture now needs a stable supply of workers, and inmates need work experience that can lead to successful re-entry into society."

The bill now heads to the House side for approval.