President-elect Donald Trump's campaign heavily promoted building a wall along the U.S.–Mexican border, but how it would be done has been a billion-dollar question. One Massachusetts county sheriff has a proposed solution — get prison inmates to build it.
At his swearing-in ceremony for a fourth term in office on Wednesday, Sheriff Thomas Hodgson of Bristol County announced his proposed solution in the form of Project N.I.C.E (National Inmates' Community Endeavors), a nationwide version of the prisoner work programs that he has led as sheriff over the past 20 years. Under the program, inmates from around the country would be tapped for labor in building the wall, as well as for relief efforts in case of major calamities.
Hodgson has enlisted inmates to work on various projects over the past few years. Such include gathering supplies to ship to 2010 Haiti earthquake victims; painting facilities for the elderly and children with disabilities; and rehabilitating a historic lighthouse.
According to the sheriff, the project will be beneficial to both the inmates and the country.
"Aside from learning and perfecting construction skills, the symbolism of these inmates building a wall to prevent crime in communities around the country, and to preserve jobs and work opportunities for them and other Americans upon release, can be very powerful," Hodgson, who is also a Republican like Trump, said at his swearing-in ceremony.
Not everyone welcomed the proposal. In a statement, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) described Hodgson's proposed solution as " perverse, inhumane and likely unconstitutional."
ACLU staff counsel Laura Rotolo argued, as reported by Esquire, "The idea of sending prisoners, who are in general disadvantaged people in our society, people of color, and many times immigrants, to build a wall to keep out other people of color is perverse."
Prison labor has both advocates and opponents, but it is a legal practice in the United States. The 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which has been in effect since 1865, declares, "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction."