Camden County in Georgia is considering replacing firefighters with prisoners as a cost-cutting measure to save the county money.
The inmates-to-firefighters program is one of several money-saving options the Board of County Commissioners is looking into to stop residents’ fire insurance costs from more than doubling. The inmate firefighter program would be the most cost-effective choice, saving the county more than $500,000 a year by some estimates. But that option is already controversial, drawing criticism from the firefighters who would have to work alongside – and supervise – the prisoners.
The Camden program would put two inmates in each of three existing firehouses, and they would respond to all emergencies – including residential – alongside traditional firefighters. The inmates would have no guard, but would be monitored by a surveillance system and by the traditional firefighters, who would undergo training to guard the inmates.
The inmates would not be paid for their work, but would be eligible to work as firefighters five years after their conviction dates. Firefighter Stuart Sullivan told Jacksonville.com that firefighters choose the profession because they have a passion for helping people, while the inmates would only be there as a way to serve their sentences.
Georgia is not the first state to use prison slave labor to try to cut costs. In California there are more than 4,000 firefighting inmates stationed at 45 camps throughout the state (picture above).
Do you think this is a good idea, or a dangerous gamble?