The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

For $1 an Hour, Prisoners Fight Fires

Aug 6, 2018

On the front lines of the fierce wildfires ravaging northern California, prison inmates work alongside professional firefighters.

These 3,700 men and women, even some juvenile offenders, make up about a third of California’s wildfire-fighting personnel. Following training, they work an average of 10 million hours each year.

Last October, more than 1,700 inmate-firefighters fought wildfires, working shifts of up to 72 hours straight. Last year, two inmates died while fighting fires.

But, the inmate-firefighters are low-cost to the state: only $2 a day, plus $1 an hour when they fight fires. The California budget for firefighting is already 100 million dollars a year. Despite its wealth, the state stiffs some of its firefighters.

One woman inmate-firefighter, La’Sonya Edwards, told The New York Times that “The pay is ridiculous. There are some days we are worn down to the core. And this isn’t that different from slave conditions. We need to get paid more for what we do.”

She’s right!