Some Firefighters in California are Prison Inmates

Jobs in prison are one of the lowliest occupations you can have. In my experience, they are also jobs that you can’t get rid of quickly because you can’t just quit. These jobs pay horribly and you can risk everything, including your life. In the state of California, prisoner labor is used for dangerous jobs.  

I’m sure you heard of the fires in California that are raging and destroying the forest. What you probably didn’t know was that some of those firefighters are prisoners working in a prison program. They are risking their lives while locked up. They come outside and put on fireproof suits during the day and go back to being locked up at night. How crazy is that? On top of that, they only pay them $1.45 for their hard work. According to the ACLU, “about 200 prisoners in California’s Conservation Camp program are fighting the fires alongside civilian employees, earning just $1.45 a day for their work.”


In the state of California, lawyers argued that prisoners shouldn’t be released early because they need the low-wage labor of prisoner to fight fires. Check out this quote from the article.

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“In 2014 the California prison system was ordered by a federal court to grant early release credits to minimum security prisoners to comply with a population cap imposed by the U.S. Supreme Court. The state’s lawyers argued against such early releases on the ground that they would “severely impact fire camp participation.” In other words, the state argued that people should be kept in prison not because they were dangerous, but so that they could continue doing work that would otherwise have to be done by public employees.”

The prisoners are not only risking their lives, they are risking their health too. The blog also states that “If they’re injured or killed on the job, they’re not covered by workers’ compensation, and their ability to recover damages in court is severely limited.” I’ve read about prisoners seeking justice from the court about injuries that occurred while they were in prison. While he was seeking medical care in the prison, he was neglected and suffered. When he got out, he sued but the prison didn’t settle with the ex-prisoner, they made the problem worse. The money that he won was ordered by the judge to go towards the victims of his previous crime.

It’s not uncommon for prisoners to lose their lives while working outside of prison and firefighting. What happens when the firefighters get hurt? Well, we already know that the medical facilities are subpar within the prison system. The prison firefighters won’t see any type of payment if they get injured or even lose their lives. The article actually states that in 1990 an entire crew of prison firefighters died and then, just last year two other firefighters died.

I’ve worked in the prison system and it wasn’t fun. I felt less than a person as they paid me with chump change. Fortunately, I didn’t have to worry about losing my life or health hazard after effects. I feel sorry for the guys stuck fighting with their lives. There needs to be much more done for prisoners especially if they lose their life. It’s hard work fighting fires and I’m sure it isn’t worth it, but it’s just difficult to quit. 

Categories: Prison