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Inmates fight fires in California

State takes advantage of convicts

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Inmates fight fires in California

Emma Yarger

The U.S. prison system is already unfair, corporatized and racist. Now it is using prisoners to fight the fires in California. These inmates are being placed in harm’s way and given unfair wages all for the benefit of the state. They are being treated as slaves.

According to CNBC, inmates were fighting the largest fires in California’s history this past Aug. Now in Nov., 200 prisoners are still working for the government.

The state pays them only $2 a day or $1 an hour when actively fighting a fire, which is a practice that saves the state millions in labor costs, but is an inhumane approach to reducing state spending.

Inmates should not be forced into life-threatening scenarios in order to shorten a sentence that was likely unfair in the first place. Our prison system is already deeply flawed, but this event sheds light on the issue.

Not only are people being used as human sacrifices, but they are also even allowing juvenile prisoners to help fight the forest fires, according to CNBC.

Is this not cruel and unusual punishment? The 8th Amendment directly prohibits the government from enacting any type of disproportionate repercussions for a person’s crimes. Criminal activity does not condone treating people as sub-human. Imprisonment is not an agreement to be used as a slave, and it never should be.

CNBC said prison officials stress that inmates volunteer for these positions, however when the existing power dynamic between officials and inmates exists, none of the convict’s decisions are truly their own. Due to their inherent lack of freedom, it is unreasonable to assume that can refuse these incentives.

Those who control the lives of the inmates should not be allowed to put their lives at risk. If prisoners still need to work to fight these fires, then it should lead to job opportunities in their future. If anything, they should be paid fairly for the work they are doing, instead of being used as cheap labor by the state. This immoral practice should be ancient history, not something we are dealing with to this day.

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About the Writer
Emma Yarger, Copy Editor

Hi queens! I am Emma Yarger and I’m one half of an epic copy editor duo. I am a senior this year and it is my second year writing for the Echo. I enjoy...

1 Comment

One Response to “Inmates fight fires in California”

  1. Adam Ball on December 12th, 2018 4:45 am

    You referenced CNBC; I believe I found the article you were referencing. In it I saw that it is a volunteer inmate force, unlike most volunteer agencies they’re rewarded with pay (albeit poor pay, but I make very little as an EMT myself.) and time of their sentences. They are evaluated to make sure they’re physically and medically along with legally able to do the task, and the program dates back to 1915. You’ll find most rural fire departments are volunteer departments, which equals no pay, there were also volunteer firefighters present. You also call them felons, while not all of them maybe felons, felons brings a negative connotation and will bring less sympathy to your cause. I do not say any of this to bash you as a writer, but as a first responder myself and graduate of SLP, I only wish to educate you in hopes that you do not spread false information in your articles. Critics of this are mainly criticizing aspects such as danger, but it’s a volunteer force, and then those speaking that it may provide incentive for mass incarceration. I hope this comment reaches you and either a reprint or retraction can be made, while a high school newspaper, covering national events should still be taken more seriously.

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Inmates fight fires in California