Illustration by Lamar Moore

Hoe squad is a hard labor job which is one of many jobs that force us inmates to do free labor without any form of pay.

According to KUAR public radio, Arkansas and Alabama are the only two states in the U.S. that still forces us to work for free. The handbook says the hoe squad is voluntary, but if we don’t go, we would get a disciplinary write-up.

Senator Joyce Elliot was campaigning for the Arkansas prison system to join the other states to get us paid for our hard work, but she was stonewalled.

I strongly feel that it would help create a better work incentive to help motivate us to work. Right now, my prison uses the hoe squad as a form of punishment. There are a lot of class-1 inmates (those who earn the maximum 30-day good time credit per month) forced to stay working in the fields because administrators are not giving out institutional jobs.

Arkansas needs strong prison reform and criminal justice reform. We make them millions of dollars a year, and we get nothing but a hoe. It’s funny that we can’t get institutional jobs, but they’ve made sure that we continue to go out to tend to their fields through the pandemic.

 
Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. The Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned. The work is lightly edited but has not been otherwise fact-checked.

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Lamar Moore

Lamar Moore is an artist and writer at Cummins Unit in Arkansas.