This is the message we'll send to California Department of Corrections and Governor Jerry Brown:
Tell California Department of Corrections: stop exploiting the labor of California's incarcerated firefighters
Wildfires are raging across Northern and Southern California, the current fires have killed at least 31 people.The past year California has experienced devastating wildfires. The fires have caused over $1 billion in damage to property, nearly 7,000 homes and buildings have been destroyed, and over 40 people have been killed.1 These wildfires have also had a big impact on California's incarcerated population who have risked their lives fighting wildfires-- two inmates have already been killed this year in the line of duty.2 And the prisoners fighting these fires are making as little as $1/hour.
Prisoners are using hoes and chainsaws to manipulate the landscape and redirect fires in their tracks- this is no easy work. Fighting fires is back breaking labor and in the state of California many people who are doing this work have been forced to do so. The state has been exploiting prison labor and giving prisoners little to no options outside of taking on this dangerous work, where they’re making as little as $1/hour.3 That's why we're calling on Gov. Jerry Brown to ensure that prisoners in this firefighter program receive the same wage as firefighters who aren't incarcerated and that a pathway is created for prisoners working as firefighters to have a real job on the outside--phasing this program out for good.
Prisoners, not protected under any work safety regulations, often return from fighting fires with broken ankles, arms, burns, and suffering from extreme exhaustion. To make matters worst, many of the prisoners doing this work are women, most of whom are mothers. These mothers often choose to take on this dangerous work because they are told that it could accelerate their release date by earning “good behavior”, usually resulting in a mere two days off your sentence.4
The movement to end prison labor is growing and over the past years people have pressured companies such as Victoria Secret's Whole Foods, and Aramark for their use of prison labor. Big corporations chose to use prison labor because it's cheap for them. However, by making it just as expensive to pay prisoners as it would be to pay people not in prison, the advantage of using prison labor would be greatly decreased. Essentially when prisoners are paid a fair wage, the government and corporations will be less likely to use prison labor; thus there will be less of an incentive to keep people incarcerated. Because keeping people in prison will just be a financial drain for states and corporations, providing no labor for them to exploit--this could drastically decrease the rate of incarceration in the U.S. Because keeping people in prison will just be a financial drain for states and corporations, providing no labor for them to exploit--this could drastically decrease the rate of incarceration in the U.S.
Tell California Department of Corrections and Gov. Jerry Brown that prison firefighters deserve a fair wage!
Here is the Petition:
We're calling on California Department of Corrections and Governor Jerry Brown to ensure that prisoners in this firefighter program receive the same wage as firefighters who aren't incarcerated and that a pathway is created for prisoners working as firefighters while in prison to be able to to do the same job once they are free.