Inmates earn $1 an hour fighting California's massive wildfires

Inmate firefighters in California.
(Image credit: FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)

About 200 of the firefighters battling California's deadly Camp Fire are inmates, a local ABC affiliate reports, who have joined a volunteer firefighting program through the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

The inmate firefighters earn $2 per day plus $1 per hour for their work, which is well above average for prison wages in the state. They can also receive time off their sentences. Previous blazes have seen far larger groups of inmates at work; around 2,000 participated in efforts to stop the Mendocino Complex Fire earlier this year.

Despite the training and experience inmates accrue through the firefighting program, they likely will not be able to become firefighters upon release. California firefighters are required to be licensed emergency medical technicians (EMTs), and EMT licensure can be blocked for anyone with a criminal record.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.

SUBSCRIBE & SAVE
https://cdn.mos.cms.futurecdn.net/flexiimages/jacafc5zvs1692883516.jpg

Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

"The persistent, horrific wildfires year after year make this human rights issue even more pressing for the men and women fighting these fires every day who cannot do so once released," Katherine Katcher of Root and Rebound, which works on prison re-entry issues in California, told Reason. The state's licensing rules, Katcher said, "shut people out of living wage careers that they are trained and qualified for solely because of old, expunged, and irrelevant convictions."

To continue reading this article...
Continue reading this article and get limited website access each month.
Get unlimited website access, exclusive newsletters plus much more.
Cancel or pause at any time.
Already a subscriber to The Week?
Not sure which email you used for your subscription? Contact us