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University of Florida Still Using Prison Labor, But End in Sight

Florida is one of the only remaining states that still use unpaid prison labor, and UF utilizes these services more than any other college in the state. They have logged over 156,000 labor hours supplied by the Florida Department of Corrections’ (FDC) workcamp prisoners in the past four years.

UF President Kent Fuchs released a statement that the university will not renew its contract with the FDC for the supply of this prison labor. But, the current contract already entered does not end until July 1, 2021.

The statement read in part: “As we move forward in implementing these initiatives, we are committed to this challenging, uncomfortable transformational work.”

Will Boose, founder of CAPS and a spring 2020 UF graduate, said this decision was long overdue and that continuing the current contract would be no more than an additional year of exploiting prisoners for free labor.

“The University just told us they will be continuing the use of prison slavery, a practice that they publicly deemed immoral in June 18’s statement, for a year, in the same message that they say they are committed to the work of realizing transformative changes,” he said. “Those are real laborers doing real labor without pay and without choice. It’s sick that UF decides to brag about the cost-savings that they have sucked out of prison slavery rather than to recognize the ways that they have violently exploited fellow humans.”

CAPS member Matt Rodriguez said that more and more UF students are taking an active role in monitoring school policy to ensure it lines up with their own morals and values.

He said UF needs more transparency not only with its plans to deal with the slave labor it employs under five contracts but also in its plans to tackle racism and inequality on campus.

“It is the entire student population, and the entire population of our state, that deserves this information,” he said. “It needs to come straight from the source: the UF administration.”

In October 2020, The Alligator reported that UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences had just broken its prison labor contracts.