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Mon Aug 31, 2015, 04:46 PM

 

30 Percent of California's Forest Firefighters Are Prisoners

About 4,000 inmates battle blazes in the Golden State's woodlands.



Here's a kind of crazy stat: Between 30 and 40 percent of California's forest firefighters are state prison inmates. The state has become a tinderbox of sorts from a four-year drought, and roughly 4,000 low-level felons are on the front lines of the state's active fires. Here's what's going on:

Why are prisoners fighting fires? For years, California's prison system has operated a number of "conservation camps," in which low-level felons in the state prison system volunteer to do manual labor outside, like clearing brush to prevent forest fires or fighting the fires themselves. A handful of other states have similar programs, but California's program is by far the largest, with roughly 4,000 participants. At its best, the program is a win-win situation: Inmates learn useful skills and spend time outside the normal confines of prison, and the collaboration with Cal Fire saves the state roughly $80 million a year.

Participants make $2 per day in the program and $2 an hour when they're on a fire line. That may sound paltry, though it's not bad by prison standards: Many prison jobs bring in less than $1 per hour. In addition, for each day they work in the program, the inmates receive a two-day reduction from their sentences.

So these are convicted felons? Yes—the prisoners are typically low-level felons, all of whom have volunteered to participate in the program and have demonstrated good behavior in prison. Some convictions exclude prisoners from applying, like arson (surprise, surprise) or sex crimes. One benefit of the program is that it often breaks down racial barriers: "When people are incarcerated they tend to segregate by race," says Hadar Aviram, a law professor and criminologist at the University of California-Hastings. "The fire camps are not like that. People who do not associate with each other inside a prison are willing to be friends when they're at a fire camp."
...

http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2015/08/40-percent-californias-fires-are-fought-prison-inmates

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Reply 30 Percent of California's Forest Firefighters Are Prisoners (Original post)
Cheese Sandwich Aug 2015 OP
HassleCat Aug 2015 #1
RadiationTherapy Aug 2015 #3
uppityperson Aug 2015 #20
RadiationTherapy Aug 2015 #24
uppityperson Aug 2015 #27
RadiationTherapy Aug 2015 #48
nadinbrzezinski Aug 2015 #54
RadiationTherapy Aug 2015 #58
nadinbrzezinski Aug 2015 #59
Logical Aug 2015 #49
yeoman6987 Aug 2015 #55
RadiationTherapy Aug 2015 #57
yeoman6987 Aug 2015 #60
Art_from_Ark Sep 2015 #67
nadinbrzezinski Sep 2015 #76
HassleCat Aug 2015 #61
Brickbat Aug 2015 #2
Mnemosyne Aug 2015 #4
Xithras Aug 2015 #6
Brickbat Aug 2015 #7
HappyPlace Aug 2015 #28
yeoman6987 Aug 2015 #56
RadiationTherapy Aug 2015 #8
Xithras Aug 2015 #10
RadiationTherapy Aug 2015 #11
stuffmatters Aug 2015 #13
dreamnightwind Aug 2015 #26
nadinbrzezinski Aug 2015 #53
dreamnightwind Sep 2015 #65
nadinbrzezinski Sep 2015 #66
nadinbrzezinski Sep 2015 #68
dreamnightwind Sep 2015 #69
nadinbrzezinski Sep 2015 #72
stuffmatters Sep 2015 #78
progressoid Aug 2015 #9
nadinbrzezinski Aug 2015 #17
Xithras Aug 2015 #23
nadinbrzezinski Aug 2015 #29
hifiguy Aug 2015 #21
Le Taz Hot Aug 2015 #31
Brickbat Aug 2015 #41
Le Taz Hot Aug 2015 #43
Logical Aug 2015 #51
tularetom Aug 2015 #33
Logical Aug 2015 #50
LanternWaste Sep 2015 #73
clarice Sep 2015 #79
Newest Reality Aug 2015 #5
nadinbrzezinski Aug 2015 #18
tularetom Aug 2015 #34
stuffmatters Aug 2015 #12
nadinbrzezinski Sep 2015 #80
untrue Aug 2015 #14
nadinbrzezinski Aug 2015 #16
untrue Aug 2015 #30
nadinbrzezinski Aug 2015 #36
tularetom Aug 2015 #37
nadinbrzezinski Aug 2015 #39
Le Taz Hot Aug 2015 #44
nadinbrzezinski Aug 2015 #15
Cheese Sandwich Aug 2015 #25
nadinbrzezinski Aug 2015 #32
untrue Aug 2015 #35
nadinbrzezinski Aug 2015 #38
untrue Aug 2015 #40
nadinbrzezinski Aug 2015 #45
untrue Aug 2015 #46
nadinbrzezinski Aug 2015 #47
Throd Aug 2015 #19
Logical Aug 2015 #52
nadinbrzezinski Aug 2015 #22
ion_theory Aug 2015 #42
kelliekat44 Aug 2015 #62
nadinbrzezinski Sep 2015 #70
840high Sep 2015 #63
ellisonz Sep 2015 #64
nadinbrzezinski Sep 2015 #71
KamaAina Sep 2015 #74
KamaAina Sep 2015 #75
mahatmakanejeeves Sep 2015 #77

Response to Cheese Sandwich (Original post)

Mon Aug 31, 2015, 04:56 PM

1. Con crews are fine

 

I always found the con crews to be vey reliable. They were happy to be outside the walls, doing something useful. I was at one fire where they had a small con crew doing the cooking, and they were like gourmet chefs. If you fought fires, you know how nice it is to have decent food. The con crews were certainly better than the Marines we had on a couple fires.

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Response to HassleCat (Reply #1)

Mon Aug 31, 2015, 05:01 PM

3. You are fine with slave labor?

"They are happy to be out" sounds to me to be eerily similar to the silly relativism of "All Americans are in the 1%." Your post glosses over quite a bit to merely flatter prisoners' ability to camp-cook.

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Response to RadiationTherapy (Reply #3)

Mon Aug 31, 2015, 06:49 PM

20. "all of whom have volunteered to participate in the program"

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Response to uppityperson (Reply #20)

Mon Aug 31, 2015, 07:13 PM

24. Volunteer prisoners! Neat!

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Response to RadiationTherapy (Reply #24)

Mon Aug 31, 2015, 07:16 PM

27. Prisoners who are imprisoned!!!! omg!!!

Yes, give them a choice. Sit in prison or volunteer for a job otherwise. If they chose the job, good for them. If they chose to sit around doing nothing, that is also their choice.

It sounds like you have a problem with the idea of prisoners. I have a problem with many things people are imprisoned for, which is another topic, but giving them a choice to volunteer for this job seems like an ok idea.

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Response to uppityperson (Reply #27)

Mon Aug 31, 2015, 08:18 PM

48. A prisoner's choice is no choice at all.

I do have a problem with imprisonment in general as well as why they are imprisoned. I find using them for chores - few jobs are as noble as fire fighting - to be distasteful.

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Response to RadiationTherapy (Reply #48)

Mon Aug 31, 2015, 08:53 PM

54. You should read into the objectives of the program

 

that was born in the 1950s... seriously.

Because you know what? They meet those goals very well thank you very much. Some of them go on INTO the fire service. since they like the job. They get smitten by the bug. and having worked in the camps gives them an opening with both CAL FIRE and the USF that otherwise would not be available due to the box.

Some city departments also give them a chance that otherwise they would never get.

And the goal is that they never, ever again see a judge... don't you think more programs should do that?

By the way, there was a prison in OH for low level offenders that in the 1980s had a similar program. Their prisoners manned the EMS rigs in the area. Recidivism was low. You know what happened when that program was stopped becuase GASP, we cannot do that! Recidivism is now pretty high.

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Response to nadinbrzezinski (Reply #54)

Mon Aug 31, 2015, 09:32 PM

58. Perhaps. Perhaps this situation and this particular prison system is an exception

to what seems to me - I'll not bother substantiating it for this conversation, so will just reply with my own observation - to be the "rule" in this country, more or less. That is to say, I believe the problems of the American prison system outweigh the good, but that, obviously, doesn't preclude this specific situation from doing more good than harm.

I don't mind trusting your observations and opinions in this circumstance, since I know enough about your persona here to know this is your turf on several levels, but I won't concede that the mere act of putting prisoners to work is a net positive.

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Response to RadiationTherapy (Reply #58)

Mon Aug 31, 2015, 09:44 PM

59. You are mostly correct in those assumptions about the California Department of Corrections

 

this is one of those things that goes back a long time, and I am personally amazed still exists. Similar programs around the country were discontinued, never mind that in the long run they saved money.

The department of corrections has the same issues that others do. Albeit California does not have a private system... just a very powerful union that is fighting ten ways to Sunday prison reforms such as Prop 47 which have started to reduce prison populations. We cover justice and prison issues and race issues. My beef with the article from Mother Jones is that it glossed a lot of it over, due to what at times reporters do (hell I have caught myself about to do that a few times as well). And in fact I have an article we ran today on the stats of mass incarceration, We have been spending way too much time at both Superior and Federal Court so the stats have names for me now.

The article also focused on the pay each prisoner gets, which is actually high by prison standards. (that is another discussion and one where models such as Sweden's should be looked at... good by prison corporation of America), but it ignored the actual cost to the state of California. this is not a money making exercise, at least not in the short term. But people in the system do volunteer. How they got there is a whole different story and one that has way too many issues. We have talked to crews in the field while we share water with them... I don't particularly care they are wearing orange. And they do see it as an opportunity to never, ever see the inside again.

Admittedly they are surprised a couple reporters will bring water to them and share it by the way. And at times we are the first "water truck" to show up, due to the logistics issues during a large incident...

Last year I met one of these guys, now wearing USF gear. He not only made it, but was hired as a seasonal and was in the process for a full hire for the United States Forest Service. He only needed to finish getting rid of the tats... nope, not the service that required it, he wanted to. But these stories are actually more common with graduates of the program than those who just stay inside the walls. Which incidentally is why I am surprised the program is still around.

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Response to RadiationTherapy (Reply #3)

Mon Aug 31, 2015, 08:21 PM

49. LOL, not a deep thinker I bet. nt

 

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Response to RadiationTherapy (Reply #3)

Mon Aug 31, 2015, 09:14 PM

55. For convicts? We are not talking productive citizens

 

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Response to yeoman6987 (Reply #55)

Mon Aug 31, 2015, 09:26 PM

57. Convicts of which laws? Outcomes of which prejudices and systemic pressures?

How many are there due to untreated illness? How many due to lack of education, jobs, and opportunity? How many are non-violent violators of drug laws or homeless vets unable to provide i.d.?

I am merely pointing out that the means by which one may be "brought to justice" are not inherently just.

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Response to RadiationTherapy (Reply #57)

Mon Aug 31, 2015, 10:05 PM

60. That's true but different subject

 

I think this fire job is actually a good deal. They get 2 bucks an hour plus a two for one day working early out.

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Response to yeoman6987 (Reply #60)

Tue Sep 1, 2015, 02:57 AM

67. Two bucks an hour for putting one's life on the line

sounds rather cheap, regardless of who is doing the work.

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Response to Art_from_Ark (Reply #67)

Tue Sep 1, 2015, 01:24 PM

76. Mother Jones did not look at the full costs

 

because then no outrage. The state pays more per volunteer than they would if they hired seasonal volunteers. None, and I mean this, none, is making out like a bandit here. The savings come in people not coming back to prison down the line.

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Response to RadiationTherapy (Reply #3)

Mon Aug 31, 2015, 10:30 PM

61. They are not slaves or anything remotely like that

 

If they wanted to, they could stay at the prison and do whatever they do there, which is probably very boring. When they're on a fire, they don't have to deal with the hassles they experience at the prison, and I think we can all see how that is far better. The crews on the fire line work 10 to 16 hours a day, just like the other crews. The work is hot and dirty, consisting mostly of digging a shallow ditch, a "fire line," about 30 inches wide. Even the Type I crews don't have a high hourly rate, and they depend on overtime and hazard pay to make significant money. It's difficult to explain why such a dirty job attracts people, but you get to like it and it grows on you.

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Response to Cheese Sandwich (Original post)

Mon Aug 31, 2015, 04:58 PM

2. Prison labor is slave labor.

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Response to Brickbat (Reply #2)

Mon Aug 31, 2015, 05:13 PM

4. This ^^^^ nt

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Response to Brickbat (Reply #2)

Mon Aug 31, 2015, 05:24 PM

6. Funny. Most prisoners on the fire lines would disagree with you.

Given the choice between:

A) Sitting in a cell block staring at concrete walls, playing the bullshit prison culture gang game, and wondering if they're going to be beaten/shanked/raped today.
-or -
B) Performing a hard but exciting job that teaches them valuable skills and gets them out of their cages

...all of the prisoners on the fire lines chose B, and for good reason. Hell, most of them would do it for free just to get out of their cells (especially since most of them get 3x time off for it).

Prison should not be punitive, but rehabilitative. Establishing life and job skills is a part of that. Our problem today isn't the fact that there is work happening in prisons, but that we don't have ENOUGH work teaching valuable and marketable skills. A huge chunk of our prison population would jump at the opportunity to learn a skill or trade behind bars that would allow them to get a meaningful job after being released.

Prison labor is only a problem when it's forced. The programs in California are entirely optional. So long as that's the case, the arguments against it are misplaced.

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Response to Xithras (Reply #6)

Mon Aug 31, 2015, 05:30 PM

7. Nothing you say changes the fact that it's slave labor.

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Response to Brickbat (Reply #7)

Mon Aug 31, 2015, 07:19 PM

28. No, it's not. Forced prison labor would be slave labor.

 

This is a voluntary program.

And, I have no problem with allowing inmates a chance to give back to the community.

Slave labor, that's sounding like a knee-jerk reaction against any form of prison work.

Well, they need to be productive, I don't have a problem with it- it's rehabilitative.

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Response to Brickbat (Reply #7)

Mon Aug 31, 2015, 09:17 PM

56. Are you forgetting they get two days off their sentence for every day worked

 

That is priceless.

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Response to Xithras (Reply #6)

Mon Aug 31, 2015, 05:34 PM

8. "Prison labor is only a problem when it's forced." What garbage.

Prison labor becomes a major problem when it becomes motivation for unjust laws, inept persecution, and racial profiling in order to meet quotas. Prison labor has a lot of problems despite attempts to diminish the importance of the problems.

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Response to RadiationTherapy (Reply #8)

Mon Aug 31, 2015, 05:48 PM

10. Of course it has issues, but there's no evidence of abuse in the CalFire program.

California's incarceration cost-per-inmate is roughly right around $66,000 this year, or about $5500 a month. CalFire's seasonal pay for the average joe who walks in and applies for the same job maxes out at $3,000 a month. Imprisoning a person to coerce them into prison labor is 83% more expensive than just hiring a regular employee to do the same job.

So where's the motivation to craft these laws and drive these unjust persecutions? And more importantly, where's the profit? These are state programs that don't generate revenue, so the entire argument that the prisoners are being used to drive some sort of unjust enrichment doesn't appear to hold much water.

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Response to Xithras (Reply #10)

Mon Aug 31, 2015, 05:56 PM

11. Drug laws and homelessness laws are typically the ones that do little more than fill prisons.

Maybe California doesn't have a problem with the law abusing its drug using and homeless populations. That's neat.

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Response to Xithras (Reply #10)


Response to stuffmatters (Reply #13)

Mon Aug 31, 2015, 07:16 PM

26. Incomplete equation

They may be state programs that don't provide revenue, but they reduce the state's firefighting expenditures, and your equation saying the monthly firefighter's wage is less than the cost of imprisoning someone leaves out other possible benefits the state gets from incarceration, such as other things the prisoners do, contractual obligations to companies like CCA, etc.

It should be expensive to incarcerate people, and we should do far less of it. For that reasson I am none too thrilled about using prison labor. We do need useful and rehabilitative things for prisoners, and they may prefer firefighting to sitting in a cell, but at this point we have a massive overincarceration problem, and need to deinsentivize the government from imprisoning people, to whatever extent is possible.

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Response to dreamnightwind (Reply #26)

Mon Aug 31, 2015, 08:29 PM

53. Peter to rob paul more precisely

 

yes, CAL FIRE saves money, in relative terms. Corrections is still paying the same money to house them that they would at prison. Or rather they are paying more since food expenditure does go up, and the guard or two assigned to the camp has to be given special pay. Then there is the cost of transportation.

Where the state saves money... is in the much lower recidivism rate among the volunteers and the fact that some of them go on to JOIN the fire service and come into the job with their eyes wide open.

This was the objective of the program in the 1950s and is not part of the prison industrial complex. There are many reasons to be critical of mass incarceration... but in some ways this program is a remnant of another era when we did try to make sure people went to prison ONCE in their lifetimes and not over and over and over again.

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Response to nadinbrzezinski (Reply #53)

Tue Sep 1, 2015, 02:14 AM

65. I acknowledge that it may lower recidivism but

that's just one side of the issue.

Would you support using prison labor in other professions, where the prisoners are paid $2/hour? Or only for government services such as firefighting? Either way, you are supplying cheap labor.

Why not greater outreach to at-risk citizens before they commit crimes, or parolees, encourage them to join the firefighting corps, there are many out of work who turn to crime in desperation.

Also decriminalization is a good path to lowering incarceration, and just in general finding paid things to do for people who have lost hope, before they commit crimes.

If we weren't incarceration nation, I would be more understanding of programs like this.

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Response to dreamnightwind (Reply #65)

Tue Sep 1, 2015, 02:48 AM

66. If this was any private prison for profit managing this

 

you would have a point. But this is not the case. It runs the state about 3000 to hire seasonal firefighters per month. It is costing 5500 per month to house these volunteers. If you round up the pay, it comes to 6000 per prison volunteer. If you add overtime, they might come to even by the way on a bad season.

I just do not see the savings here.

There are savings, down the line as people do not re-offend. That is where the potential savings come in. The program was targeted in the 1980s for elimination because these guys got it too easy and we should punish them...and was one of the few nationwide to survive, by a hair mind you.

Compare and contrast with service centers, managed in other states by Prison corporation, where prisoners, who are not volunteers, get paid cents in the dollar and prison corporation is contracting out for a lot of money.

And the theoretical used in other professions...it is not theoretical...it is happening right now. Prison based industries are way lucrative. Why private prisons are suing states for gasp...not providing bodies fast enough.

As I said, this is a remnant of another era. This is being managed by a state agency. Due to realignment counties like mine are looking into opening conservation camps as well. When they look at the actual numbers I am betting it is dying...wait, in my county it quietly fell off the agenda. The math did not make any sense. Then again, my county does not even pay volunteers what prison Inmates get in the daily stipend when on the line, which they are mandated by the state. So it is cheaper to have volunteers manning back country stations with the occasional career to supervise them.

And the inmates, and their families, as well as program graduates, have lobbied the state not just to preserve it, but perhaps expand their functions and to year round. With climate change they just might...

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Response to dreamnightwind (Reply #65)

Tue Sep 1, 2015, 02:59 AM

68. And I forgot a few points

 

1.- I am not for incarceration, mass or otherwise. I would prefer outreach, early education, jobs, the end of gentrification...and a slew of other data points.

2.- Prison Corporation of America averages daily pay for their mostly mandatory programs that they hire for profit at .75 cents per day.

3.- this is not part of the prison industrial complex. There are problems with CA corrections, lots of them in fact, but this program is even a model for other countries.

4.- I wish we were able to use things like Sweden and Denmark as a model, where we even removed corrections at the camps, completely, and any wire, and paid these guys and gals the same rate as a FF-1 and offered them careers as they end the program, with different departments, not just Cal Fire and USFS. A few urban departments do by the way.

5.- the Nordic model includes prison inmates living and working among citizens, with a few unarmed guards and daily pay at min wage. This reduces issues even further and helps the transition process.

And it goes without saying....it is truly not black and white when you look at these kinds of legacy programs.

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Response to nadinbrzezinski (Reply #68)

Tue Sep 1, 2015, 03:19 AM

69. Some good points

The math in the first paragraph of your Post 66 either does not make sense, or I am not understanding what you are saying, I think you made some mistakes there, if not maybe clarify.

Regarding using such labor in other professions, I a well aware of it, totally sucks. This link describes some of the products made by prisoners, these goods on this page may just be produced by federal prisoners, I am not sure, but it is a major problem either way.

I hear you when you explain that this fire program isn't the CCA profiting from filling private prisons. Perhaps I'm too reflexively opposed to any use of prison labor, if so it's based on wanting to dial back the whole prison system, it's beyond ridiculous how many people we lock up and what interests are served in doing so.

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Response to dreamnightwind (Reply #69)

Tue Sep 1, 2015, 12:34 PM

72. I am all for ending the war on drugs

 

major reason we are where we are. But I would never consider fully getting rid of labor. You will have prisoners in prison even if we end the war on drugs. Hopefully go down to 1970s levels, where we as a nation were closing some prisons. But I would end every private prison in the land. If the state needs to punish, this is not something you privatize.

But 90 percent of people in prison will get out. Spending all day in a cell or the yard is not quite healthy or particiularly good at giving people the skills they need to rejoin life. We used to have mandatory education programs inside the walls. So people finished High School, some even got advanced degrees. Most were cancelled over the years because little Johnny is getting into debt but cons are getting it for free?

The first thing I would do, if I could wave a wand is end the war on drugs...and the use of fines as income by many police departments as well as civilian asset forfeiture laws. Second thing, start the process to have the same level of education in schools in La Jolla and oh, Lincoln Heights. These are in the same school district but they might as well not be. Private prisons would go away. And for really low risk offenders, try Norway's model.

But you also need to get rid of barriers to reentry, such as the box asking people if they have ever been convicted of anything...that alone is a huge problem. And I would also make these people eligible for section 8 housing, which currently they are not. So homelessness is an issue. I could go on.

As to the math, to be fair to a program you need to look at the cost not just the pay. It costs more to house and feed each inmate than it would to outright hire seasonal volunteers. It is rob from Peter to pay Paul truly, because the cost is fixed. But cal fire would "save money" by just hiring seasonals. This is why my county dropped the idea.

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Response to RadiationTherapy (Reply #8)

Tue Sep 1, 2015, 03:51 PM

78. Great post. You said it far better than I did

Whoops, this first response to your post got listed under the post that followed yours.

If a state economy is dependent upon cheap prison labor, then the model for impartial justice is broken. Kamala Harris made this
issue painfully evident when she stated that the state had to lessen the release of low level offenders because the state needed them to battle fires. How is that "business model" any different than Ferguson's of arresting and fining for nuisance charges in order to fund its police department? It's also the same unjust contradiction of for profit prisons. You can't have institutions of incarceration (or a state contract) that needs to keep beds full to fulfill a contractual quota or that makes money the longer they keep a "valuable" worker incarcerated. Prisoners are not cost saving assets of the state or Fed govt. To me that slavery not rehabilitation.

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Response to Xithras (Reply #6)

Mon Aug 31, 2015, 05:39 PM

9. Yep.

My father and I have been in a couple prisons (not as inmates) and found many inmates would jump at a chance to do something.

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Response to Xithras (Reply #6)

Mon Aug 31, 2015, 06:40 PM

17. We have talked to crews on the fire line, over jugs of water

 

http://www.democraticunderground.com/?com=view_post&forum=1002&pid=7128036

Some have an extremely good sense of humor as well by the way.

You are correct.

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Response to nadinbrzezinski (Reply #17)

Mon Aug 31, 2015, 07:10 PM

23. I've taught a number of them.

I taught some classes at a Columbia College in Sonora for a few years, and we used to get some of these guys straight out of prison (Columbia has a fairly well known degree and training program for firefighters). They'd get sentenced for something (typically theft or drug dealing, in my experience), end up volunteering with CalFire and fall in love with the work. When they got out of prison they'd enroll in the college to work on a Fire Technology or a wildland fire management degree, with the idea that it would get them into the field permanently. They were some of my most motivated students, and I had a blast talking with them and teaching them. A few of those guys, and the long conversations I had with them, really changed my views toward prisons and prison life.

I actually do understand the concerns brought up by activists, but the very real benefits of the program, and the desire of the prisoners themselves to keep the program going, should outweigh any conceptual issues. Unless an actual pattern of real world abuse can be found in the program, the rehabilitative good it brings to their lives should be our first priority.

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Response to Xithras (Reply #23)

Mon Aug 31, 2015, 07:22 PM

29. They are incredible

 

Last edited Tue Sep 1, 2015, 12:53 PM - Edit history (1)

the first time I found one of these crews... it was kind of a surprise. A few years later, a local USF firefighter came from one of the crews. He was hired for the season and was hoping to get full time with the Feds, even if he had to move to another state. The only thing he still had to do, was remove some of the tats. So he was in the process of doing that in between seasons. People have no idea how long it takes to do that. (For that matter how painful). And it was not becuase the Forest Service said such... he left that life behind.

I get why Mother Jones wrote the story, but the story has problems... including the fact that California does not have a private prison system. They strongly hint at it... yes, it costs the state little money when you look at the pay, and only the pay, and you forget the cost to house, feed and equip these guys and gals. The food cots are higher than at prison, though they do admit they are fed better.

Now let's look at the cost of just the equipment they wear.

A PPE... firefighgtiing uniform, runs about 1000 per firefighter.

Pants are anywhere from 150 to 400 depending on brand and bells and whistles.

jackets about the same

Helmet you are talking 150

Pack... 500 (we looked into them, since we at times truck into the fires)

Fire shelter, which sometimes works, sometimes does not, 300

Gloves, average 35, again depending on brand

Boots, 400

Under shirt 70 (the most expensive t-shit I ever bought)

Goggles, about 100

I just spent 50 on a good flashlight... (mine got weird)

And that is before things like oh the rest of the gear, and the training.

Plus the program WORKS... as you experienced.

Oh and I met him last year



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Response to Brickbat (Reply #2)

Mon Aug 31, 2015, 06:51 PM

21. Yep. No two ways about it.

 

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Response to Brickbat (Reply #2)

Mon Aug 31, 2015, 07:26 PM

31. I used to work with parolees.

Several of them BRAGGED about being on the fire brigade. It was a big deal for them and something they were proud of. Many of these guys have never been given the opportunity to give back to the community. They're EAGER to do it. I made sure they put that experience on their resumes as well. These are guys that often had NOTHING to put on their resumes. And if they could get a commendation or a letter of recommendation from the Fire Captain that was HUGE in their job searches.

Don't condemn this until you've actually talked to the inmates about it.

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Response to Le Taz Hot (Reply #31)

Mon Aug 31, 2015, 07:49 PM

41. It's like you think I haven't.

No matter how they feel about it, it's still slave labor.

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Response to Brickbat (Reply #41)

Mon Aug 31, 2015, 07:51 PM

43. Well, if you've spoken to them about it,

you know that I'm correct. But you hang on to that bone you're chewin' on. It seems to give you comfort.

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Response to Brickbat (Reply #41)

Mon Aug 31, 2015, 08:23 PM

51. So, so are volunteers for political campaigns? nt

 

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Response to Brickbat (Reply #2)

Mon Aug 31, 2015, 07:29 PM

33. It's only slave labor if they're forced to work to make somebody a profit

These prisoners are working voluntarily for the benefit of the taxpayers, and saving said taxpayers a ton of money in the process. This program is not part of the prison industrial complex.

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Response to Brickbat (Reply #2)

Mon Aug 31, 2015, 08:22 PM

50. The word "volunteer" must confuse you. nt

 

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Response to Brickbat (Reply #2)

Tue Sep 1, 2015, 12:40 PM

73. Prison education is slave education...

 

Prison education is slave education...

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Response to LanternWaste (Reply #73)

Tue Sep 1, 2015, 03:57 PM

79. Lantern Waste = Creek Dog = KCR. nt

 

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Response to Cheese Sandwich (Original post)

Mon Aug 31, 2015, 05:14 PM

5. Gee whiz,

How many more people can we imprison in order to increase access to almost free labor and have the tab for food and lodging payed for by governments and taxes?

Yeah, that's the ticket. And there are all those people who are completely fine with exploitation under the guise of "punishment". They think they and their families are tonally immune. Brilliant. Profit!

Profit is job one! Get those gears of progress and profit turning. Capitalism works...or at least you have to.

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Response to Newest Reality (Reply #5)

Mon Aug 31, 2015, 06:44 PM

18. The program is run by a STATE AGENCY, that be CAL FIRE

 

and it is more expensive actually than hiring seasonal employees.

It is a product of another era of California, and participants have the lowest recidivism rates (the original goal back in the 1940s and 50 when the earliest versions of this) emerged. The savings, if you will, is in people not going back to prison.

There are many systemic reasons why these guys and gals perhaps should not be in prison to begin with, but this program is much older than corporate prisons for profit, and CA, for the most part, remains a public prison system. Some of the local jails might be closer to privatization, but are not truly private either.

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Response to Newest Reality (Reply #5)

Mon Aug 31, 2015, 07:30 PM

34. Profit is not involved. Don't you understand the concept of the commons?

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Response to Cheese Sandwich (Original post)

Mon Aug 31, 2015, 06:07 PM

12. Prison labor profits both Ca AND the companies that provide it. Kamala Harris is plain creepy here.

At the end of this article, Harris is still arguing that adequate(yikes) amounts of low level offenders be retained in prison to cover the needs for prison firefighters. No progressive (or anybody with a empathetic moral compass IMHO) would ever think like that much less spout such callous, brutal,oppressive "economics."

"Enough" low level offenders, who should be released, she still thinks should be kept in prison to cover Ca's firefighting needs. That's a disgusting world view. And enthusing how much it saves the State money (over presumably paying regular worker wages) is
illogical. How much does the taxpayer pay per year (like $50,000+each) to keep those same workers deliberately incarcerated for use.


Despite slight revision of earlier (outrageous) remarks, Harris is still arguing for a system that deliberately denies people their freedom AND costs taxpayers tons of money. All to support the incarceration for profit system.




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Response to stuffmatters (Reply #12)

Tue Sep 1, 2015, 04:20 PM

80. The company that runs this is CAL FIRE a state agency

 

there are no private contractors involved in this legacy program that has yielded benefits over the years to both volunteer immates and the state. So starting with the premise that this is being managed by prison corporation of America is dead wrong. There are no private parties in this.

And yes, she does come out creepy, but not for the reasons you think. Again, MJ did a lousy job of not explaining a lot of it. One reason the AG went to court was Prop 47, which she, and many others in the state hated.

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Response to Cheese Sandwich (Original post)

Mon Aug 31, 2015, 06:14 PM

14. I know someone that has wanted to be a firefighter their entire lives

but there are zero firefighter jobs. when 30% of the firefighter force is held by non-paid prisoners, the job ceases to become a profession.

should firefighting be staffed entirely by free prison labor, what about teachers, or police, or call centers? if you can't find work because free prison labor has already taken the job, i guess you can still get a job at wal-mart right?

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Response to untrue (Reply #14)

Mon Aug 31, 2015, 06:29 PM

16. Except CAL FIRE staffs every year up with sesaonal fire fighrers

 

the competition is fierce and not becuase of these guys. The forest service does as well, Most FF start as volunteers, which is what you could consider these guys, because that is exactly what they are...

So if your friend truly wants to be a fire fighter, look for a LOCAL volunteer department and get the certs needed. It is a catch 22, but most people do not start their career outright in a large urban fire department.

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Response to nadinbrzezinski (Reply #16)

Mon Aug 31, 2015, 07:25 PM

30. this is wrong.

firefighters deserve to be PAID. There are more than twice as many volunteers as paid firefighters.

Free prison labor should not eliminate paid jobs. I have always had an issue on the government relying on volunteer firefighters. These people deserve to be paid for this dangerous profession.

97 firefighters died in the of duty in 2013, 41 were volunteer firefighters - we should never replace paid jobs with volunteers, and we certainly shouldn't replace paid work with free prison labor.

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Response to untrue (Reply #30)

Mon Aug 31, 2015, 07:37 PM

36. I will put it this way

 

if you apply for the Los Angeles or San Diego fire department, both large urban departments, they recruit classes every so often... you'd better have a resume with at least Fire Fighting explorer in your resume... preferably with saith department.

Will some people get in without these? Sure. but most people who want to become professional fire fighters have served first as reserves and volunteers. It is the way it is,. By the way, if any of these guys gets a fire science degree, which your friend should be working towards if he is serious about it... they will also be considered and the character references from their Fire Captains, like characters references from people working for the reserves or a volunteer department, will weigh heavily in their favor.

So if your friend is serious... I just told you. Get a fire science degree, go though a local academy, and join a department to get your feet wet. Some credentials that will make it easier,. EMT and EMT-P... yeah, yeah, the department should send you to school, but in reality people get their certs before they apply and many work for ambulance companies before they get hired on by departments. In fact, many departments do not hire without those certs.

Here

http://www.sandiegocounty.gov/content/sdc/sdcfa/volunteer-program/volunteer-positions/volunteer-firefighter.html

The San Diego County Fire authority is a good example, and most local firefighters understand that after a year or two of doing this, they can move to Heartland, San Diego, Chula Vista, CAL FIRE... et al. There are exceptions to this... like the NYFD, but even New York, has it's issues. They still try to recruit from the same places they have for generations. And the more rural area you live, the more this applies.

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Response to untrue (Reply #30)

Mon Aug 31, 2015, 07:41 PM

37. I was a volunteer firefighter for twenty years

We used to be insured under the county umbrella until some number cruncher sold the county dads on saving money by cutting off our coverage. We could no longer afford the premiums so we shut the doors. Now the county PAYS CalFire for the same function we used to perform, except it costs them roughly ten times as much. We were all trained and certified, most of us had over ten years experience.

And I can't speak for anybody else but I never felt like I was being taken advantage of. I was there because I wanted to be, because I had a stressful day job and it was a chance for me to do something where immediate results of my efforts could be seen.

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Response to tularetom (Reply #37)

Mon Aug 31, 2015, 07:43 PM

39. I was a medic for ten years south of the border

 

BEST JOB ever!

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Response to untrue (Reply #14)

Mon Aug 31, 2015, 07:52 PM

44. These are seasonal firefighters.

I'm sure your friend would rather have a permanent, full-time position.

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Response to Cheese Sandwich (Original post)

Mon Aug 31, 2015, 06:26 PM

15. More than one of these guys and gals

 

ends up leaving the prison crews and straight into a good job with both CAL FIRE and the USF. Like most, at first they are seasonal employees. More than one has made fire fighting a career as well and having been part of the program allows their future employer to have like direct character references from well... FIRE CAPTAINS in charge of the crews. Did I mention those jobs can lead to a potential career with a UNION employer? Or if USF with federal benefits?

That is the part that the mother jones article did not cover. And for the record, the reason why everybody's face is not visible is because CAL FIRE, who runs the program, asks that their faces are not shown, to protect them from any retribution, And we have shared more than one gallon, yes gallons, of water with prison crews on the fire lines. They are always surprised that we really don't give a shit they are wearing orange instead of yellow.

When you talk to some of the crews, over water... and in between hard physical labor, they will tell you that they like it. The camps, like Porta La Cruz and La Cima, are far better housings and food and conditions than prison. And they do not have to deal with Corrections officers either. The attitude of most CAL FIRE captains is, you are a firefighter first, period, end of discussion.

The program started in the 1950s and participants have the lowest recidivism rate of all the prison system. Are there downsides? Yes... plenty, like not allowing people to go, since fire season is upon us. And you might argue the pay, which is actually higher than inside the walls. Again, another factoid they did not mention.

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Response to nadinbrzezinski (Reply #15)

Mon Aug 31, 2015, 07:14 PM

25. That's interesting

 


If I was in prison sure this would seem a great choice compared to being in a cell.

But I'm still skeptical about programs that pay prisoners $2/hour for back breaking physical labor.

One big concern is that there are way too many people in jail in the first place. Possibly $2/hour labor could create some incentive to keep the prisons full. Not sure though.

Thanks for sharing your perspective.

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Response to Cheese Sandwich (Reply #25)

Mon Aug 31, 2015, 07:27 PM

32. This program started early in the 1940s, the modern form

 

is about the 1950s. The goal is not to save the state jack or shit. becuase it would be far cheaper to hire seasonal workers, even if they had to train and certify them. The cost of housing them is over 5500, CAL Fire, as Xinthras pointed above, tops at 3,000, both are monthly figures. So to just tell you how much they get paid misses half the picture. Or rather more than half.

The objective, and still remains the objective of this program, is to give people a skill, and structure, and pride and not to see them in front of a judge, like ever again. It is rehabilitation, And the state does not have private corp of America doing this... it is a state agency.

It is one of the few remaining rehab programs in the United States. And it works.

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Response to nadinbrzezinski (Reply #32)


Response to untrue (Reply #35)

Mon Aug 31, 2015, 07:42 PM

38. This is about rehabiltation

 

and the more of these guys and gals that never see a judge again, is where the savings are realized for the state. Because trust me, it is much more expensive in the short term... and the training they get is what the NG will get if they are put on the lines. It is short, and it deals not at all with the full spectrum of firefighting.

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Response to nadinbrzezinski (Reply #38)


Response to untrue (Reply #40)

Mon Aug 31, 2015, 07:52 PM

45. So you woudl rather have these people come in and out of prison for the rest of their lives?

 

And this is not free prison labor. It costs the state $5500 a month just for housing and food. So it is not quite free. And if you think it is free, that is part of the problem. As a society we pay a LOT MORE when people keep coming in and out of prison.

Look, you want to only punish people, feel free. I would rather see people leave prison and never, ever come back to it. And some do go out there and COMPETE with other people in the fire fighting business as well. Some of them do it very well thank you very much, after they leave prison. And even if the program was shuttered like right now... let's give you your wish. Those camps would go into deep disrepair and CAL FIRE will NOT, contrary to your views. hire more people. They are authorized where they are by the State, and there are no more monies to authorize for more seasonal or career fire fighters. So who do you think the state will activate next? oh yes NATIONAL GUARD.

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Response to nadinbrzezinski (Reply #45)


Response to untrue (Reply #46)

Mon Aug 31, 2015, 08:11 PM

47. I recommend you go to your local member of the legislature

 

and tell them exactly where they are going to find the money for that plan. I can tell you right now, are you going to raise taxes? At least 2 percent statewide... because right now there is no money for your plan. They can either use this VERY SUCCESSFUL program, or activate the guard. Nowhere in there is money to hire more career fire fighters.

I suspect activating the guard would be orders of magnitude more expensive as well, Though the MAFFS is a magnificent thing to see in operation.

Here the short version of the budget. Your plan has no understanding of how this shit works like for real. Nor, once again, is this actually free labor.

http://calfire.ca.gov/about/downloads/weeklymemos/CALFIRE_15-16_BudgetSummary.pdf

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Response to Cheese Sandwich (Original post)

Mon Aug 31, 2015, 06:47 PM

19. If I was in prison I would be begging to get on a fire crew.

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Response to Throd (Reply #19)

Mon Aug 31, 2015, 08:24 PM

52. +1000, they want to be outside the walls. Make them feel free. No one is forcing them either. nt

 

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Response to Cheese Sandwich (Original post)

Mon Aug 31, 2015, 06:59 PM

22. And of course MJ did not bother with Prop 47

 

http://ballotpedia.org/California_Proposition_47,_Reduced_Penalties_for_Some_Crimes_Initiative_(2014)

This is the heart of why a lot of folks are leaving prisons at an accelerated rate.

For the record, counties also went to court as many of these guys and gals were sent home as part of the prison realignment program.

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Response to Cheese Sandwich (Original post)

Mon Aug 31, 2015, 07:49 PM

42. K&R nt.

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Response to Cheese Sandwich (Original post)

Mon Aug 31, 2015, 10:36 PM

62. Will they get recognition as "first responders?" AND don't forget a huge portion of cheap labor

 

that takes what might be good-paying jobs from workers is made up of prisoners. The Prison industrial complex (PIC) is a lucrative industry for private sector vulture capitalists who use prisoners to fulfill their contract obligations with state, local, and federal governments while at the same time collecting huge contract dollars from those same entities.

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Response to kelliekat44 (Reply #62)

Tue Sep 1, 2015, 12:15 PM

70. Tell me exactly how is Cal Fire making out like bandits

 

when it would actually be cheaper (in the short term) to hire seasonal fire fighters? The cost is not just what you pay them, but also how much it costs to house and feed these volunteers?

This is not prison corporation of America. The program in it's modern form, goes back to the 1950s.

The savings are accrued...but not short term. Long term, when people never again come before a judge. And some do move on to become first responders...and they are considered fire fighters and first responders by the state.

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Response to Cheese Sandwich (Original post)

Tue Sep 1, 2015, 12:22 AM

63. Why not? They volunteered.

 

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Response to Cheese Sandwich (Original post)

Tue Sep 1, 2015, 12:51 AM

64. This is the definition of a rehabilitation program in prisons.

I thought as Democrats we want our prisons be about rehabilitation, not punishment. That is the classic progressive stance, is it not?

I would expand this program and others like it if I could. There are jobs in firefighting and forestry. These men will have skills when they are released.

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Response to ellisonz (Reply #64)

Tue Sep 1, 2015, 12:21 PM

71. It is not because people are progressive or conservative

 

there is a lot of knee jerk because of the very real abuses in prison of prison labor This story did not cover major data points so it even makes it look as if somehow the state is making out like bandits. And people really do not want to hear it.

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Response to Cheese Sandwich (Original post)

Tue Sep 1, 2015, 01:04 PM

74. So THAT'S why we incarcerate so damn many people!

 

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Response to Cheese Sandwich (Original post)

Tue Sep 1, 2015, 01:35 PM

77. They're covered by Cal/OSHA too.

Go to the U.S. OSHA Fatality and Catastrophe Investigation Summaries, which have California incidents too. Use "Cal/fire" or "Cal Fire" as search terms in the abstract.

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