Sunday, August 22, 2010

Good Lord: Welfare Recipients in Prison Dorms?

The headline to this story alone…

Headline: NY candidate: Prison dorms for welfare recipients

From the story –
Republican candidate for governor Carl Paladino said he would transform some New York prisons into dormitories for welfare recipients, where they could work in state-sponsored jobs, get employment training and take lessons in "personal hygiene."

Paladino, a wealthy Buffalo real estate developer popular with many tea party activists, isn't saying the state should jail poor people: The program would be voluntary.

But the suggestion that poor families would be better off in remote institutions, rather than among friends and family in their own neighborhoods, struck some anti-poverty activists as insulting.


Throughout his campaign, Paladino has criticized New York's rich menu of social service benefits, which he says encourages illegal immigrants and needy people to live in the state. He has promised a 20 percent reduction in the state budget and a 10 percent income tax cut if elected.

Asked at the meeting how he would achieve those savings, Paladino laid out several plans that included converting underused state prisons into centers that would house welfare recipients. There, they would do work for the state — "military service, in some cases park service, in other cases public works service," he said — while prison guards would be retrained to work as counselors.

"Instead of handing out the welfare checks, we'll teach people how to earn their check. We'll teach them personal hygiene ... the personal things they don't get when they come from dysfunctional homes," Paladino said.


Paladino told The Associated Press the dormitory living would be voluntary, not mandatory, and would give welfare recipients an opportunity to take public, state-sponsored jobs far from home.

"These are beautiful properties with basketball courts, bathroom facilities, toilet facilities. Many young people would love to get the hell out of cities," Paladino he said.

He also defended his hygiene remarks, saying he had trained inner-city troops in the Army and knows their needs.

"You have to teach them basic things — taking care of themselves, physical fitness. In their dysfunctional environment, they never learned these things," he said.

Ketny Jean-Francois, a former welfare recipient and a New York City advocate for low-income people, said Paladino's idea shocked her.

"Being poor is not a crime," she said. "People are on welfare for many reasons ... Is he saying people are poor because they don't have any hygiene or any skills?"


Paladino said he based his ideas on the Civilian Conservation Corps, a federal program that paid young unemployed men during the Great Depression to plant trees, build roads and develop parks.

Paladino said he would open the program both to long-term welfare recipients and to people who had lost their jobs during the recession. He said that he didn't know how he would pay for it but that prisons could be consolidated to make room.
Okay…there is a lot going on here. First off I think that having work and educational programs for welfare recipients is a great idea. The problem I have is with Mr. Paladino’s apparent attitude towards and disdain (for lack of a better term) for the poor. While some of his criticisms are valid, the fact is that generalizing all poor people as dysfunctional and lacking in personal hygiene is not only ignorant but borderline bigoted. Obviously I can’t get into the man’s head so I have no idea where his heart truly lies, but his comments betray an anti-poor attitude that seems to see them not only as lower class citizens but a burden on people like him – the rich.

Instead of treating the poor like a leech that needs to be removed from the skin, why not treat them as an opportunity to help grow this society? Why not focus on teaching them the skills that helped make you so successful Mr. Paladino instead of wanting to essentially lock them up? These people are not only your potential constituents, but they are also your neighbors (though maybe not in your case), employees, and members of your church. They are part of your community and this attitude towards them is just sad. Yes so of them are a lost cause, but no all of them and those who want the hand up deserve every chance to make a better life for themselves and their families and don’t deserve to be looked down upon from up high by elitists like you.

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