Thursday, December 29, 2011

Prison labor and broken economics

The Los Angeles Times reports that the state perhaps most linked with the phrase "ravaged by forest fires" could lose up to 1,500 of its fire fighters - because these hardy civil servants will be released from prisons.

A Supreme Court ruling ordering California to reduce its prison-inmate population may mean the transfer of non-violent offenders from state prisons to county jails, where they could be eligible for early release. 

If you're convicted of burglary, drug possession, or fraud, the state of California considers you a prime candidate to clear brush and cut fire lines. 

From the Times:
Fire officials say the prisoners, selected from a pool of those who exhibit ideal behavior in custody, can be as much as half the manpower assigned to a large fire... Assemblyman Kevin Jeffries (R-Riverside) said in an interview that maintaining inmate firefighting ranks is critical to public safety. Without them, he said, large fires would be likely to burn longer, causing more damage and increasing personnel costs.
California's unemployment rate in October was 11.3 percent. The state needs servants to perform necessary public safety work, but can only find a pool of employees from within the prison system. It cannot afford to hire free people. I recall Michael Lewis's Vanity Fair essay, "California and Bust:"
The people who had power in the society, and were charged with saving it from itself, had instead bled the society to death. The problem with police officers and firefighters isn’t a public-sector problem; it isn’t a problem with government; it’s a problem with the entire society.
Signs of a system losing the will to sustain itself.

This week the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation was supposed to report to a panel of judges on its efforts to meet a December 27th deadline to reduce its prison population to 167 percent of capacity, a first benchmark step toward the court-ordered reduction to 137.5 percent of capacity by 2013. 

Kinda surprised that the CDCR uses the same web platform as this humble blog. Budget cuts.

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