Chain Gang. The word conjures up visions of prisons in the deep south marching out their population into the hot sun to toil on the sizzling blacktop or in the scorching fields . These days the words conjure up a different scene.
The sun beat down on the prison yard demanding submission but the yard nor the prisoners working in it would yield. Occasionally a complaint would echo across the yard. Something about their hands were getting tired or they needed some water and a guard would come by with a ladle of water to quench their thirst.
They would love nothing more than to sing the hours away but that would disturb the goats. Goats?
Today , somewhere in Colorado, a prison farms out some of its population to milk goats. This isn’t your grandpa’s chain gang. There is no repairing roads or working the fields in stifling heat for these convicts.
The prisoners are hired by a small company that produces craft goat cheese. Yes, you read that correctly. Craft goat cheese. The State that gave us the Home Brewers Association and sparked the micro-brew/craft beer phenomenon now gives us prisoner assisted Craft Goat Cheese.
The company that hires them says that they cannot find enough workers other wise and that they are providing the prisoners with a work skill they can use after prison.
I guess it beats the default vocational plan of turning first time rookie offenders into more skilled future offenders.
One can’t help but wonder if the craft craze will influence the convicts towards other vocational pursuits in the future.
“So Vincent, You are here for some career advice?”
“That is true Mr. Delaney”
“Please call me Nuckles”
“Ok Mr. Nuckles”
“Just Nuckles. So what is it you want?”
“Nuckles, I’m getting out soon and I’ve been wondering what I’m going to do on the outside.”
“What are you good at? I’m assuming what got you in here is not on the list.”
“Yea, I wasn’t much of a boost, I had no effect on theft rates in my neighborhood.
The vandalism rate was another story. I did a lot of damages to those cars before I gave up. “
“Well, that’s something.”
“While I was in here I got pretty good at icing guys.”
“Really? How many?”
“Well, one guy slipped on some soap in the shower before I had a chance to do anything but I took the credit.”
“You must have been good since I didn’t hear nuthin about it. It sounds like you have a vocation already.”
“I’m thinking about it but there are so many guys in here that will get out and do the same thing. I’m not sure I can make a go at it.”
“What you need is a hook. Does the term craft killer mean any thing to you.”
“Sounds like a murderer with a cheese fetish.”
“No, but I think there are some of those out there too. The kind of guy I’m talking about
is a killer that cares about the quality of his work. A guy who uses the finest weapons, high grade chloroform and duct tape to get the job done. A guy who you would be proud to have kill your best friend.”
“Wow, I’d like to be that guy.”
“You could and I’ll show you how. It will only cost you a carton of cigarettes a week and not those cheap generic ones. I want top shelf quality.”
“Ok, I can’t wait to start.”
“You already did.”
“Top shelf quality is lesson one.”
Modern Chain Gang picture by Patrick Denker.