Detained Firefighters

Tiny - Posted on 22 September 2020


In 1865, slavery was offically abolished in the United States. Abraham Lincoln single-handedly destroyed one of its biggest money making industries. Most of the people who led that industry ran the country, and influenced the passing of the bill that outlawed slavery, the 13th amendment, by adding things to it. They added that slavery wouldn’t take place “except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.” This in turn created a whole new money making system for this country, the prison industrial system. People who are imprisoned work in slave-like conditions for the country, and in doing so create substantial revenue for it. Production of clothing, food development, recycling, and furniture production are a few modern factories that are run in prisons, but in California, a state known for its wildfires, the main prison occupation is firefighting.


California has been very good at its firefighting business, due to the fact that 60% of its firefighters are paid at most 1.15 USD an hour, and are bound by the prison system. Given the same training and stricter supervision than official firefighters, detained firefighters work for years for slave-like profits to get time off their sentences. After they are released, because of the criminal charge on their record, fire stations don't take them in and they are left with years of experience going to waste. In a time when forest fires are stronger than ever, California needed to make a change.


“CA’s inmate firefighter program is decades-old and has long needed reform. Inmates who have stood on the frontlines, battling historic fires should not be denied the right to later become a professional firefighter. Today, I signed #AB2147 that will fix that.” Those were the words of California's Governor Gavin Newsom, on the new bill he signed. Many people believe this is a step in the right direction, however, many more know that he has the power to completely dismantle the prison slave labor system in California, and is only putting this law into place because of necessity. 


The COVID-19 pandemic has affected many different people in different ways. In the case of the prisons, hundreds of inmates are dying because of improper management of these incarceration systems. Because of this, most prison inmates cannot fight fire on the front lines, and fires have raged in California further and less controlled than in recent years. One of the things that bother me about this, among the many civil and human rights violations, is the handling of COVID-19 in prison systems. I’m no genius, but I feel that with this whole outbreak, the prison systems could have improved drastically the way they handled COVID-19 in their penitentiaries.


In the constitution, declared by the 13th amendment, slavery was never officially abolished in the United States. For the past 100+ years the loophole of slavery being allowed in our prison system has served companies and the country in general very well. However, once a virus that doesn't allow them to use these slaves to the utmost breaks out, they need to pass a law giving those slaves and former slaves rights. The government of California is clearing the records of many reformed and most often not even guilty individuals who have put in years of work, but not paying them for the work they did. They are treating this small gift as an unbelievable act of kindness and not something that should have never needed to be done in the first place.    



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