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UMass Boston's independent, student-run newspaper

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

On-Campus Prison Labor: Explanation and Action is Called For

The latest developments in what is steadily becoming a tradition on the part of UMB Administration of questionable ethical and careless decision-making involves employing prisoners to do what could, and perhaps should, have been student-labor. Over spring break, UMB employed convicts from Suffolk County’s South Bay House of Corrections to scrape and sand university boats at no cost to the university. The work was assigned to inmates due to opposition from labor unions that the work the inmates were first intended for, filling potholes in the deteriorating garage, would have taken jobs away from union laborers. So while the local unions were able to organize against losing jobs, a less organized, less informed group was made to lose out on potential work, namely UMB students.

Tom Goodkind, an officer with Local 509 summed up the situation accurately: “It’s odd that in a time of layoffs of staff and increases in fees for students, to bring prisoners on campus to do jobs that students or workers could be doing.” Aside from this are the obvious safety concerns inherent in bringing convicted criminals on campus. Though the prisoners employed were screened thoroughly according to a prison spokesperson, given the history of the judicial system allowing suspected criminals to plead to lesser crimes, can anyone be sure these criminals, (overseen by a single guard) were safe to have working on a college campus?

Of the many questionable decisions made by the UMB Administration this year, employing the equivalent of slave labor to save money is one of the most egregious. Students were not only denied needed labor in this case, they were taken advantage of by an administration that is obviously more concerned with saving money than doing the right thing.

Commensurate with this philosophy, UMB’s Administration still advocates the wasting of millions of gallons of freshwater by delaying necessary repairs to the university’s water filtration system. Estimated at $100,000, repairs to two large filtrine units designed to decontaminate UMB water have been neglected, because draining the water into the ground has proven just as effective for keeping contaminants out of the water.

Yet while the university dumps unused, unrecoverable water daily down the drain to avoid costly repairs to an integral university function, the Chancellor maintains a $1 million budget for “campus improvements.” Such improvements include $10,000 in new furniture for the Chancellor’s office.

While Massachusetts and Rhode Island have issued drought warnings as well as twenty-one counties in New York and thirteen counties in New Jersey, southern Connecticut has imposed mandatory water conservation measures, and New Hampshire has issued a drought emergency, UMB’s Administration remains solely responsible for dumping over 2.5 million gallons of water in the last year, one of the driest on record. And they are dumping still, continuously, unceasingly.

At 4.6 gallons per minute, you can calculate how many gallons have been wasted just in the time it has taken you to read this editorial.