Herschel Walker’s Food Services Company Benefitted From Unpaid Labor Of Drug Offenders


Georgia senate candidate Herschel Walker has dealt with numerous controversies during the run-up to next month’s midterm elections, and another just popped up.

According to PBS NewsHour, Walker’s Renaissance Man Food Services, which he founded in 1999, has benefitted from the unpaid labor of drug offenders.

According to PBS, several lawyers and prison advocates believe the Oklahoma-based Christian Alcoholics and Addicts In Recovery (CAAIR) acts as a residential “work camp” that profits from  a “vulnerable workforce under the guise of providing alcohol and drug counseling and rehabilitation services.”

More than a decade ago, CAAIR began sending residents to work at Simmons Foods Inc., a processing giant that Walker says is a principal partner and supplier for his food company.

State judges assign convicted offenders to CAAIR, allowing them to join the program or serve their time in a conventional jail or prison. Simmons would then contract with CAAIR for labor at its plants where workers are not paid.

Jillian Snider, a former New York City Police Officer and a current policy director for the R Street criminal justice and civil liberties program said the program design is almost like “an outpatient program” that focuses on skills training and counseling. However, she added the programs are “unique mostly to Southern states. It’s just not something you see in the northeast and in the West.”

A federal lawsuit against CAAIR and Simmons, which is currently pending, detailed how some participants were pressured to work when injured, compelled to attend religious services, and threatened with imprisonment if their work was unsatisfactory.

Additionally, CAAIR participants testified in court they did not always provide rehabilitative or psychiatric treatment.

Despite the treatment of the program’s participants, including lack of pay, US courts have declared the situation legal considering it the same as work programs for fully incarcerated inmates who fall outside the 13th Amendment’s ban on involuntary servitude. Additionally, a trial court judge ruled in 2020 that the program did not violate federal labor laws.

Neither Walker nor his company were named in the original suit, and Walker has avoided talking about the issue except to tout the program’s benefits.

“If someone comes out of prison, they should have incentives set up that the person has learned a trade, and you give an incentive for a company to hire him so he can make a living for himself,” Walker said during an Aug. 17 campaign event in Kennesaw, Georgia, according to PBS.

During his campaign run, Walker has been forced to answer questions concerning his children, abortion, and even climate change.

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