California pays prisoners $2 per day to fight wildfires

Illustration for article titled California pays prisoners $2 per day to fight wildfires

California uses about 4,000 inmates as firefighters to help battle the state's brutal wildfires, paying each just $2 per day. Many are low-level offenders who work 24-hour shifts, getting incredibly little sleep. Why would California do this? Using prisoners as firefighters saves the state about $100 million per year.

From KQED:

The Bully Fire, which has burned more than 12,600 acres in Shasta County, is nearly contained. In the two weeks since it ignited, about 2,000 firefighters have battled the blaze. Nearly half of them — 900 — are inmates with the California Department of Corrections. These "low-level offenders" making just $2 a day are a crucial component in how the state battles wildfires.


Using prisoners as cheap/free labor has a long history in America. And it continues to be common today. The obvious reason being that it saves municipalities a staggering amount of money. Again, from KQED:

California's Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has prisoners and Cal Fire needs firefighters. Across the state there are more than 4,000 inmate firefighters. Their labor saves the state more than $100 million a year, according to CDCR.

You can read more about California's use of prisoners as cheap labor (and the 900 of them currently fighting the Bully Fire in Shasta County) over at KQED.


Image: Santa Barbara County Fire Captain Scott Safechuck douses a vegetation fire June 27, 2014

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Seems an inefficient use of the prisoners and money to me… We could just as easily force them to smother the fire by laying down on it and not pay them at all. That way, we clear out the overpopulation of the prisons, and we take care of those who would otherwise wait on death row for many years while wasting our tax dollars and our oxygen.