This is the message we'll send to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and Governor Jerry Brown:
Tell CDCR: Stop exploiting the labor of California's incarcerated firefighters
Wildfires are raging across northern and southern California, and have killed at least 44 people since the most recent wildfires started. Over the past year, the fires have caused over $1 billion in damage to property and nearly 7,000 homes and buildings have been destroyed. 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.And the incarcerated workers fighting these fires are making as little as $1/hour.
Incarcerated firefighters, not protected under any work safety regulations, often return from fighting fires with broken ankles, arms, burns, and suffering from extreme exhaustion. Fighting fires is backbreaking labor and in the state of California, many people who are doing this work have been forced. The common refrain from proponents of the program is that it is completely voluntary--but inmates often face disciplinary action if they refuse to participate. To make matters worse, many of the prisoners doing this work are women, most of whom are mothers, and children. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) boasted in July that over 2,000 incarcerated adults and 58 incarcerated youth were fighting fires. Mothers and children often choose to take on this dangerous work because they are told that it could accelerate their release date and get them back with their families by earning “good behavior, ” but it usually results in just a mere two days off a sentence. On top of all of this, incarcerated firefighters can't even get jobs as firefighters once they are released from prison--because they have felony records.
The CalFire program is not a mutually beneficial exchange, it's a ruthless exploitation of forced, deadly, and essentially unpaid labor. That's why we're calling on the CDCR to end the practice of employing children to fight fires, ensure that incarcerated firefighters receive the same wage as firefighters who aren't incarcerated and that a pathway is created for them to have a real job on the outside.
Here is the Petition:
We're calling on you to end the practice of employing children to fight fires, ensure that incarcerated workers in the CalFire 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.