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Unforeseen consequence: Pot legalization has limited California’s ability to use prison labor in fighting state’s wildfires

Unforeseen consequence: Pot legalization has limited California’s ability to use prison labor in fighting state’s wildfires

A combination of pot legalization coupled with court rulings calling for overcrowded prisons to release convicts early has now manifested in an interesting consequence for the state of California.¬† And that unforeseen problem is the state’s ability to find enough prisoners able to work the fire lines as wildfires ravage across the drought-ridden terrain.

For decades California has used low-level prisoners as a means of cheap labor to help fight fires that periodically crop up during periods of dry climate.  However with prison overcrowding now forcing the state to have to release many of these convicts who would normally be available to stand on the fire lines, California is finding itself desperately short of workers able to counter a number of fires that occurred here in 2017.

Image result for california unable to fight wildfires

While many on the left have celebrated California’s push to legalize marijuana as a victory for a progressive, harm-reduction approach to combating addiction and crime, the pullback in the number of low-level prisoners entering the state’s penal system is leaving the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Court mandates to reduce overcrowding in the state‚Äôs prisons ‚Äď combined with the legalization of marijuana, the most commonly used drug in America (aside from alcohol, of course) ‚Äď have led to a sharp drop in the number of prisoners housed at state facilities in recent years.¬†Interestingly, one byproduct of this trend is it‚Äôs creating headaches for the state officials who are responsible for coordinating the emergency wildfire response just as California Gov. Jerry Brown is warning that the severe fires witnessed this year ‚Äď the most destructive in the state‚Äôs history ‚Äď could become the new status quo.

To wit, since 2008, the number of prisoner-firemen has fallen 13%.

As the¬†Atlantic¬†reports, California has relied on inmates to help combat its annual wildfires since World War II, when a paucity of able-bodied men due to the war effort forced the state to turn to the penal system for help. More than 1,700 convicted felons fought on the front lines of the destructive wildfires that raged across Northern California in October. –¬†Zerohedge

A study done last year shows that an¬†estimated 39% of the 2.2 million Americans currently incarcerated should not be in prison¬†as they were convicted on non-violent crimes where the only victims were themselves, or some spurious perspective that the state considers a ‘crime against the people’.¬† And if both the Federal government and state governments were to rectify these unnecessary incarcerations, the savings alone could help fill many budget needs which include pension shortfalls and education costs.

Unfortunately thanks to the failed ‘War on Drugs’, incarceration has become big business, with billions of dollars at stake for private and public jail systems.¬† However with marijuana legalization becoming more mainstream across the country each and every year, very soon states that have profited from the prison industry may find themselves having to face dilemma’s that have manifested solely because of America’s prison epidemic.

Kenneth Schortgen Jr is a writer for The Daily Economist,,, and Viral Liberty, and hosts the popular youtube podcast on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Ken can also be heard Wednesday afternoons giving an weekly economic report on the Angel Clark radio show.



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