California Fights Shrinking Inmate Workforce

caprisonlabor1120Under U.S. Supreme Court mandate to release prisoners from its overcrowded system, lawyers for the state of California argued recently that a release of low-risk, non-violent prisoners would severely deplete the state’s inmate workforce.

Why is inmate labor in such high demand? In a word, wildfires. In a state plagued by damaging fires that threaten populated areas, the costs of inmate labor for this dangerous work save the state more than one billion dollars a year. California uses a 2-for-1 time credit system that allows inmates who perform well in certain jobs earlier release. After trying to alter this program to persuade prisoners into taking firefighting jobs if they were deemed physically able, a federal court in California recently ordered the state to expand the credit against their wishes.

Is cheap labor a leading cause of mass incarceration? Read more at thinkprogress.orgarrow1