With farmers complaining that a crackdown on illegal immigrants has scared away their migrant workforce, authorities in Georgia are trying to see whether they can get unemployed ex-cons into the fields. The results so far are mixed at best after about a week. Mexican and Guatemalan workers will generally keep harvesting until 6pm or longer when necessary. Not so for the men in the new state-run program aimed at replacing the Latino migrants. Some made it fewer than 30 minutes under the hot sun.
In a cucumber field, one farmer put the probationers to the test, assigning them to fill one truck and a Latino crew to a second truck. The Latinos picked six truckloads of cucumbers compared to one truckload and four bins for the probationers. While most offenders are required to work while on probation, the minimum hourly compensation doesn’t stand up to the hot sun and harsh work conditions. "It's not going to work," said one crew leader at a local farm. "No way. If I'm going to depend on the probation people, I'm never going to get the crops up." (Read more probation stories.)