Quantcast

Prison Inmates Fighting California's Deadly Fires

Popular
California fire inmate crewman sprays down a hotspot at the Rim Fire on Sept. 3, 2013. U.S. Forest Service photo by Mike McMillan

As California faces record-breaking blazes across the state, its Department of Corrections tweeted this week that more than 2,000 inmates are working as firefighters, prompting new debate over this aspect of prison labor.


While California's inmate firefighters are volunteers, they earn just $1/hour in the field—working alongside salaried firefighters who earn an average of $74,000 per year—and are mostly unable to apply for a state fire job upon their release from prison.

"There are some days we are worn down to the core," incarcerated firefighter La'Sonya Edwards told the New York Times last year. "And this isn't that different from slave conditions. We need to get paid more for what we do."

"Look, the biggest, most important thing is putting out the fires," Lisa Graybill, Deputy Legal Director at Southern Poverty Law Center told Newsweek. "And in my experience, prisoners are so eager for the chance to work and chance to demonstrate their rehabilitation that they'll accept any work conditions. But they shouldn't be exploited by the state. They're putting their lives on the line like other California firefighters, and they should be paid fairly for a fair day's work."

For a deeper dive:

Newsweek, Vox, The Independent, AP. Commentary: Washington Post, Danielle Allen op-ed, Washington Examiner, Philip Wegmann column

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, and sign up for daily Hot News.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

People walk across the bridge near Little Raven Court in downtown Denver. Younger Americans increasingly prefer to live in walkable neighborhoods. Helen H. Richardson / The Denver Post via Getty Images

By David B. Goldstein

Energy efficiency is the cornerstone of any country's plan to fight the climate crisis. It is the cheapest option available, and one that as often as not comes along with other benefits, such as job creation, comfort and compatibility with other key solutions such as renewable energy. This has been recognized by the International Energy Agency (IEA) for at least a decade.

Read More Show Less
Activists from Extinction Rebellion New York City engaged in nonviolent direct action to confront climate change outside City Hall on April 17, 2019. Erik McGregor / Pacific Press / LightRocket via Getty Images

By Andrea Germanos

Over 500 groups on Monday rolled out an an action plan for the next president's first days of office to address the climate emergency and set the nation on a transformative path towards zero emissions and a just transition in their first days in office.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
The Ladakh region of India, pictured above, is a part of the Himalayan mountain region of the upper Indus Valley which is the most vulnerable water tower, according to researchers. Suttipong Sutiratanachai / Moment / Getty Images

The drinking water of 1.9 billion people is at risk from the climate crisis and the demand for water is rising, a study published Monday in Nature has found.

Read More Show Less
Jet stream triggered heat waves could threaten food production in several important breadbaskets, including central North America. Carl Wycoff / CC BY 2.0

Researchers have pinpointed a previously underexamined threat to global food production, and they warn it will only get worse as the climate crisis intensifies.

Read More Show Less

By Jennifer Molidor, PhD

Climate change, habitat loss and pollution are overwhelming our planet. Thankfully, these enormous threats are being met by a bold new wave of environmental activism.

Read More Show Less