The economic down turn that began last year is making things happen that would not have been considered possible during normal times. There are millions of prisoners convicted for minor as well as major offenses spending a few months to many years in the jail in many countries across the world. In the US these people are being deployed for increasing the food availability for public food distribution programs. The Food Stamp program in that country has jumped to more than 35 million during the current year from 29 million in the last year. The attempt to gainfully utilize them for food program is worth watching and how the logistics will work out remains to be seen.
According to a recent news report "several states are sending inmates into already harvested fields to scavenge millions of pounds of leftover potatoes, berries and other crops that otherwise would go to waste. Others are using prisoners to plant and harvest vegetables".
The concept of prisons with no walls has been an attractive option as many human rights experts feel such restraints are demeaning as far as human beings are concerned but very few such prisons were found to be successful in the long run. It is not clear how far the economics of production can be viable since the cost of supervision and guarding against their escape can be substantial. Some experiments of this nature in the past have been disappointing and such projects are being wound up as impractical. China is known to be using its prisoners for many productive work and there has been muted criticism regarding its moral and ethical implications.