Exploiting Prisoners For Cheap Firefighter Labor

California saves big time using thousands of prisoners, including women, to battle the colossal fire raging across the state now. They exploit these prisoners at a fraction of the price of those traditionally employed and they cut these kind of corners to fight its biggest environmental problem.

There are a few incentives for prisoners to participate in fire fighting. They receive skills and training they could potentially use in the future. A bigger reward though, is the $1 an hour they get for firefighting. Compensation for normal prison labor is only $2 per day, so that 1 dollar an hour is a small improvement in a bigger slavery. Prisoner firefighters can also earn time off for good behavior, it can mean two days off of a sentence for every day served firefighting. This still means these prisoners can be essentially slave firefighters for decades

There’s a big cash incentive for the state to cut corners by taking advantage of vulnerable prisoners. A few dollars a day is enormously different from the $74,000 plus benefits a year it pays average salaried firefighters. California saves an estimated $80-$100 million a year by exploiting prisoners.



Photo: “Forest fire” by Ervins Strauhmanis is licensed underCC BY 2.0