December 13, 2017 sbprisonsolidarity
Community Rallies in Santa Barbara in Solidarity with Inmate Firefighters
SANTA BARBARA – Could the brave firefighter who risked life and limb to save your home have been paid only $1 per hour to do it? Up and down the state of California, on the front lines of deadly wildfires, thousands of prison inmates employed through the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s California Conservation Corps (CCC) program face the blazing heat and choking smoke for, on average, $2 per day plus $1 per hour of work. As southern California faces a new wave of inferno, at least one community gathered for a rally to call attention to these overlooked firefighters – and to ask that they be paid a living wage. About 30 community members gathered with signs and banners for the rally, which took place in downtown Santa Barbara, CA, at 5pm on Friday December 8th, at the corner of State St. and Anapamu St.
While the SB Prison Solidarity Network expresses support for everyone doing their part in this trying time – especially emergency personnel, volunteers, and organizers throughout our communities protecting and supporting one another – many people are unaware of this population working tirelessly for wages far below what in the free world (outside of prison) is considered a legal minimum wage. Many of these firefighters have suffered injuries, and many have lost their lives. It’s time that they were recognized – and honored – with a decent reward for back-breaking and life-threatening work.
As of Friday, December 8th, a representative from the Northern California CCC camps reported 1,972 inmates fighting current fires. Southern California camps reported 1,031. This represents a large portion of the total force fighting the fires.
Due to an exemption in the 13th Amendment which abolished chattel slavery in the United States, made infamous in the acclaimed 2016 documentary “13th”, there is no legal requirement that incarcerated people be paid wages for their work. Santa Barbara Prison Solidarity Network has supported recent efforts by prisoners across the country to demand an end to what is being called “prison slavery”.
SB Prison Solidarity Network urged members of the greater community to come and express their support for and demand decent wages for ALL firefighters.
Air conditions in Santa Barbara were still very bad, and community members were asked to bring N95 protective masks to share.