Prison Reform Is Threatening Exploitation In California

September 18, 2019

California’s fire camp program uses prison labor to fight wildfires across the state. People have compared it to modern-day slavery because the inmates are paid next to nothing. Now participation is down, and the state is trying to switch it up to keep the program going.

According to reporting over at Earther, a document they obtained through a Freedom Of Information Request reveals that California blames prison “population reduction strategies” for a shortage in people joining the firefighter program. Prisoners join voluntarily, but there’s a catch. 

Since California was forced to undergo prison reforms by court order due to overcrowding and abuses inside its facilities, things have been changing with its prisons, jails, and even arrests. The state used to pay firefighters $2 a day, and now it’s offering a little over $5.

Other prison jobs barely pay a dollar - if anything at all, really - and being a firefighter is still a risky job, one that has taken the lives of some prisoners. It’s arguable they knew this would happen. When Kamala Harris was California Attorney General, she even fought AGAINST reform.

California has a long way to go in actually learning how to treat inmates in its prisons and jails. They raised the wage, but prisoners are still being underpaid and exploited. Just because someone is incarcerated, it doesn’t mean their life or their labor is worthless.

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