Ga. Puts Probationers to Work Harvesting Crops
Thursday, June 23rd, 2011
It's 3:25 p.m. in a dusty cucumber field in south Georgia. A knot of criminal offenders who spent seven hours in the sun harvesting buckets of vegetables by hand have decided they're calling it quits — exactly as crew leader Benito Mendez predicted in the morning.
Unless the cucumbers come off the vine soon, they will become engorged with seeds, making them unsellable. Mendez's crew of Mexican and Guatemalan workers will keep harvesting until 6 p.m., maybe longer. Not so for the men participating in a new state-run program aimed at replacing the Latino migrants Georgia farmers say they've lost to a new immigration crackdown with unemployed probationers.
"Tired. The heat," said 33-year-old Tavares Jones, who left early and was walking down a dirt road toward a ride home. He promised Mendez he'd return the next morning. "It's hard work out here."
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