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Smart Talk Dec. 30 

You thought your job was a prison Though the classic job in prison is making big rocks into little rocks, the Arkansas Department of Corrections is looking to put the “collar” into blue-collar labor. Through newspaper advertisements, the ADC is now soliciting proposals for manufacturers who want to move their operations inside the fences and utilize inmate workers. “It works almost like a work-release for inmates who wouldn’t normally qualify for work-release, usually because of the nature of their crimes,” said Dina Tyler, spokesperson for the ADC. “It’s basically a work-release behind the fence.” With proposals, review, building a structure to house any manufacturing operation, and set-up, she said it will be at least a year and a half before the program is on line. The pilot factory will be set up in the women’s unit at Newport, and will employ 40 to 100 inmates, depending on the nature of the manufacturing. Inmates will be paid “at least minimum wage.” “As we grow, we have to keep creating new inmate jobs so the inmates will have something meaningful to do,” Tyler said. “Obviously they’re not going to get rich, but they will be able to provide some money for their dependents and if they have any sort of restitution they can pay money toward that as well.” Prison pictures Photographs made between 1914 and 1937 at the Arkansas penitentiary and found in a drawer in 1975 were exhibited recently at a gallery in Buffalo, N.Y., and have found their way to art blogs on the web. Bruce Jackson, a documentary filmmaker and photographer at the University of Buffalo, has posted the exhibit images on the web at csac.buffalo.edu/mirrors/mirrorsimages.html. They include men and women — the latter all Caucasion. Jackson decided to enlarge the 3-by-4 inch images to 13-by-19 inches, he said, to change the pictures from bureaucratic detritus to portraits of real people. Jackson’s recent exhibit of the photographs was called “Mirrors” to suggest the reaction of the viewers to these unnamed people. Divorce belt Tired of hearing about family values and old-fashioned virtues in the states that voted for President Bush, Rick Perlstein wrote in the December issue of The American Prospect “The divorce rate in Mississippi is higher than that in Massachusetts, a point that can’t be repeated often enough.” So let’s repeat it, and elaborate on it. The latest divorce statistics we could find on the Internet showed Massachusetts — which voted for its native son, John Kerry — with the lowest divorce rate in the country: 2.4 per 1,000 population. Mississippi’s rate (5.7) was higher. So was that of Bush’s home state, Texas (5.4). So was Arkansas’s (7.4). In fact, Arkansas trailed only Nevada (9.0) in the frequency of divorce. Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the Associated Press concluded that the highest divorce rates are in the Bible Belt states — roughly 50 percent higher than the national average, which is around 4 per 1,000. Bush swept these states. States in the Northeast, Kerry country, had the lowest divorce rates. (Some red-state defenders say the rate is higher in the South because there are more marriages. These defenders are as deficient in math as they are in morals. Rate is an average of an occurrence.)
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