Prison (Slave) Labor Being Used To Fight California Wildfires
Isn’t time we stopped using the criminal justice system as a vehicle for slave labor. Only a few days ago, it was revealed that Oklahoma was using an alternative to incarceration as a way to funnel what was essentially slave labor to a specific poultry processor that was able sell to companies like Walmart, KFC, Popeyes, and PetSmart because of its lower cost of production.
According to report by NBC (and with a hat tip to wagatwe at DailyKos), prison inmates are being used as front-line firefighters in California. In fact, the nearly 4,000 of them make up 13% of the current firefighting force in the state. The use of prison inmates to fight fires saves the state of California nearly $125 million every year.
These inmates are technically volunteering for this work but there are incentives for them to do so. They get paid $2 per day and $1 per hour, which works out to be substantially higher than the average maximum amount per day paid to prisoners which is actually less than $4. In addition, there are other incentives. For each day of work, they get a two day reduction in their sentence and being housed in a work camp is preferable to a prison cell.
As of 2001, it was estimated that prison labor created almost $2 billion in output every year. It is surely much higher than that today. Some prison inmates receive monetary compensation as low as just $.14, that’s fourteen cents, per hour.
Firefighting is a dangerous job, even if you are not directly on the front lines. Cutting down trees and clearing firebreaks is hard work. And it is potentially saving hundreds of lives and millions in property. Perhaps that what makes it so appealing to use what is essentially slave labor to fight fires, it’s a pretty good bang for the buck. Capitalism at its finest. Isn’t time we put a stop to this abuse?