Mass Incarceration, Prison Labor in the United States
Date Written: 20/06/2017
Year Published: 2017
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX21076
Federal Prison Industries (FPI) under the brand UNICORE operates approximately 52 factories (prisons) across the United States.
According to a Mother Jones article in 2015 somewhere between 30 and 40 percent of California's forest firefighters are state prison inmates with some 4,000 working at any one time on fire lines. So dependent on the inmates was California that prison reforms that would see the release of some of the incarcerated firefighters were put on hold for fear of losing the manpower to fight California blazes. Then California attorney general Kamala Harris, now a US Senator, was behind the effort to keep the "cheap" firefighters behind bars.
"Prison reform advocates have raised concerns that the state is so reliant on the cheap labor of inmate firefighters that policymakers may be slow to adopt prison reforms as a result. The concern was magnified last fall, when lawyers for state Attorney General Kamala Harris argued that extending an early prison-release program to "all minimum custody inmates at this time would severely impact fire camp participation -- a dangerous outcome while California is in the middle of a difficult fire season and severe drought." Harris has since said she was "troubled" by the argument, and the state has ruled that minimum custody inmates, including firefighters, are eligible for the program so long as it proves not to deplete the numbers of inmate firefighters."