Prisoners are Fighting California's Wildfires on the Front Lines, But Getting Little in Return
Fortune By Nicole Goodkind
Nov 1, 2019
As multiple deadly wildfires in California, stoked by dry weather and 65 MPH winds, threaten to destroy thousands of homes across the state, 2,150 prison inmates are battling on the front lines to tame the flames.
The prisoners earn between $2.90 and $5.12 per day, plus an additional $1 per hour during active emergency for their potentially life-threatening efforts. The firefighters they work alongside earn an average of $91,000 each year before overtime pay and bonuses.
The Conservation Camp Program, officially established in 1945, is estimated to save California taxpayers about $100 million each year. Prisoners work on hand crews, constructing firebreaks by using tools like chainsaws and picks. During active fires, they work for 24-hour periods followed by 24 hours of rest.
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