It isn’t really this bad, is it?
Camden County, Georgia is considering an “inmates-to-firefighters” program as one way to keep residents’ fire insurance costs from more than doubling, according to The Florida Times-Union. The program is one of multiple options Camden’s Board of County Commissioners are considering, but officials say hiring inmates as firefighters would be more cost-effective than the other options, saving the county more than $500,000 per year.
Camden County’s decision comes as localities around the country are curbing police, fire department and other services to cope with shrinking budgets. The Stevens Point Fire Department in Stevens Point, Wisconsin is aiming to trim its budget by more than $140,000 through overtime changes and other measures, according to The Stevens Point Journal. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced in March that he wanted to cut the fire department’s ranks to deal with looming budget deficits, according to the Gotham Gazette.
And it’s not just fire departments that are experiencing the squeeze. Public-sector job cuts have slowed the recovery, even as the private sector made gains. Government officials slashed 34,000 jobs in September, while the private sector created jobs, according to The Department of Labor.
Camden’s inmates-to-firefighters program isn’t the only way former criminals are getting put to work in Georgia.
After the state passed a law in the summer cracking down on undocumented immigrants, Georgia farmers complained that they couldn’t produce at the levels they were accustomed to because the migrant laborers who pick berries and cucumbers were too fearful of deportation to come to work. In response Republican Governor Nathan Deal started an experiment where he made crews of unemployed probationers available for farmers to hire to replace the migrant workers.
And for the record, that “prisoners to migrant labor” move failed MISERABLY. But let’s try it again when people’s lives are at stake.