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JOE MATHEWS: Beating prisons into warehouses | Opinion

What will be opened on their behalf when California begins to close prisons?

While driving to the Deuel Vocational Institution near Tracy in San Joaquin County, I got a glimpse of one answer to that question. This month’s closure of Dur, the first state-owned prison to be closed across generations, opens a window for the unique plunder of California’s progress.

On my way to that human warehouse, I had to navigate another type of warehouse, a road lined with large logistics facilities. Along Grant Line Road, there were huge Amazon warehouses, Home Depot and US Foods distribution centers, third-party logistics companies NFI and APL, and Federal Emergency Management Agency facilities. The largest warehouse still under construction near the prison appeared to be twice as tall as all other warehouses.

By the time the road diverged to the right and the destination was visible, the 68-year-old prison looked small.

This juxtaposition of old prisons and new logistics facilities is a change of guards. Just as the Bible prophet Isaiah foresaw a sword strike for a military-civilian transformation for agricultural cultivation, the reality of California in the 21st century presents a new prophecy.

In mass imprisonment, in mass commerce.

Currently, two different trends that are being accelerated by the pandemic are working together. First, due to the rapid decline in California’s prison population (as a result of court decisions, judgment reforms, and early release of prisoners to limit the expansion of COVID), the state considers closing old prisons. can do. Second, the surge in e-commerce has caused a wave of cheap land in Edge City and warehouse construction along the corridors of rural highways where many of the prisons were built.

While driving to a California prison for possible closures in recent months, I often find myself struggling to find correctional facilities in the ocean of logistics facilities.

However, at the intersection of prisons and warehouses, not only land but also people are involved.

Prisons disproportionately house poor, non-white Californians — the same people that warehouses employ disproportionately. Indeed, new warehouses are often a rare place to hire someone with a criminal record, and in recent years there has been a progressive attitude towards former criminals in line with the growing labor shortage.

However, employment in warehouses has its dark side. Working in these facilities can feel like a prison. Employees are under close scrutiny and supervision. They can be punished or fired for taking time out of work — even going to the bathroom.

As a result, state legislators who have been wrestling with the situation in prisons over the past few years are looking at the question of how to make warehouses less like prisons.

Earlier this month, the California State Legislature approved AB701, the first bill in the country to regulate warehouses. If the law is signed by the governor, the bill requires disclosure of work speed allocations and algorithm-based metrics that warehouses use to determine workers. Companies can no longer penalize workers for “vacation tasks” that include breaks. The bill also empowers the state to adopt new regulations to help injuries while working in these warehouses.

Lawmaker Lorena Gonzalez, who sponsors the bill, has expressed particular concern about the construction of an Amazon warehouse in Otai Mesa, east of the San Diego region. A warehouse similar to that facility shares Otay Mesa with the infamous Immigration Detention Center (which ACLU is about to close) and Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility, San Diego County’s only state prison.

Returning to Tracy, driving Grantline Road and trying to enter some warehouse facilities to talk to the workers, the location was too well protected. Access to the closed prison was much easier. The old guardhouse where the visiting car had to stop was empty. And the entrance gate to the prison itself was wide open, and the prisoners had already migrated. After looking around the property, the protection observer helped the staff run some computers for reuse.

Standing there, it’s not hard to imagine that this old prison location along I-5, and at least 11 other state-owned prison locations at least half a century ago, have been converted into warehouses. bottom.

It’s even easier after a 25-minute drive to Stockton, a Northern California women’s facility where the last state prison was closed in 2003. But I couldn’t find the site. The former address is in a distribution center and a large multimodal transport facility where freight is switched from truck to rail vehicle (or vice versa) on the way from warehouse to warehouse.

Joe Mathews is the author of the Connecting California column for Zócalo Public Square.

JOE MATHEWS: Beating prisons into warehouses | Opinion Source link JOE MATHEWS: Beating prisons into warehouses | Opinion

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