• a person who works very hard without proper remuneration…
The Civil War may have ended slavery, but not in Ada County where children are working without pay at a commercial retail establishment.
The GUARDIAN has received a complaint of slave labor–literally–right here in Ada County. It is a serious matter in need of outside investigation with children being forced to work at a private business–without pay–as part of sentences by at least one 4th District judge.
We heard from parents of a youth sentenced to 60 hours of “community service” after pleading guilty to possession of drug paraphernalia. He joined other youths doing cleaning and janitorial work at a local store.
It is located in a retail storefront strip mall in Boise. In every sense it is a private commercial for-profit enterprise. For the record, the youth offender liked the people who run the business and they gave him a nice “thank you” letter after he completed his court mandated sentence.
Few dare complain about getting a “good deal” when it comes to a work-related sentence from the court. However, if the youth offenders fail to do the work (violate the terms of probation) they face detention in a locked facility.
The issue of a business receiving county authorized free labor certainly raises questions of unfair competition to other businesses forced to pay minimum wages, worker comp, social security tax, and with hold income tax.
We talked to numerous officials knowledgeable of various adult inmate labor programs as well as juvenile detention and community service. Every single one told us inmate labor–adult or juvenile–was to be used ONLY at public or community based nonprofit venues such as parks, museums, schools, or places like homeless shelters and soup kitchens. We assume the food bank would qualify for instance.
The GUARDIAN finds it outrageous for Ada County authorities to provide child labor to PRIVATE BUSINESSES without charge to the business or pay to the children involved. The liability issues–for both the business and the county are huge.
Who pays if the child is injured at the private business? Who pays if the child breaks equipment or injures someone else? Who actually offers up the labor of these children to the businesses?
We find it hard to understand why Judge William Harrigfeld would allow a business to use the labor of minors passing through his court for the benefit of a commercial enterprise. As sentencing judge he should know where and how his orders are being carried out.
The GUARDIAN feels this matter warrants an investigation of the juvenile system in Ada County. The single question that needs to be asked is, “Does Ada County provide free youth labor to private businesses?”
We know the answer, now we need to know if anyone in authority knows.
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