When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Unethical, Chapter I: Camden County, Georgia has a Terrible Idea to Save Money

Fortunately, ax-murders aren't eligible for firefighting duties....YET!

Camden County officials are considering putting prison inmates to work as firefighters as a cost-cutting measure.

The program would put two inmates in each of three county firehouses. The prisoners (will they wear striped fire-fighter uniforms?)  would respond to all emergencies, including residential fires, alongside the trained firefighters. The special program would be open to convicts charged with non-violent crimes, including drug offenses and robbery.

According to the details of the plan, the inmates would have no guards, but would be monitored by a surveillance system and by the non-criminal firefighters, who will undergo training to guard the inmates. It is estimated that the inmate firefighter program could save the county more than $500,000 a year.

Oh. Well, I guess that makes this irresponsible, reckless, offensive program all right, then!

No, it does not.

Whatever the courts may say or have said about putting prisoners to work in dangerous jobs, this is wrong:

1.  It is unjust. The prisoners were not sentenced to death or injury, and subjecting them to either as a budget-balancing trick is an abuse of the prison system and the government’s power. Next: putting prisoners on the bomb squad and using them as decoys in police shoot-outs.

2. It is disrespectful. This is an insult to firefighters, an outrageous and ignorant statement that what they do can be handled not just by barely-trained amateurs, but barely-trained amateurs who can’t be trusted to walk free in the community.

3.  It is irresponsible. Fire-fighting requires coordination and teamwork, and when they fail, houses burn and people get hurt or killed. Injecting prisoners into teams of professionals risks disrupting morale, efficiency and effectiveness in a crucial public service.

4. It is unfair. Firefighters responding to an emergency need to have all their attention focused on the life-and-death business at hand. Requiring a firefighter to do double duty, overseeing the conduct of two convicts who could be looking for an opportunity to bolt for freedom, is unfair and compromises both tasks.

We will see more such crack-brained ideas coming out of cash- strapped communities around the country, I’m sure. Few will be worse than this one, though.

9 thoughts on “When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Unethical, Chapter I: Camden County, Georgia has a Terrible Idea to Save Money

  1. I can’t even imagine how a firefighter is supposed to save someone from a burning building and guard his co-worker at the same time. That sounds ridiculous and will only last as long as a county official needs a real firefighter. They should consider replacing the county officials with free labour and leaving the life saving work to the professionals.

  2. Oh! This is a wonderful idea for a variety of reasons.
    1. This puts obviously unemployed workers back to work.
    2. Since public safety personnel are our best and brightest in our community we would put fewer of them in harms way. We have to save their lives to be available for the next parade to represent how trustworthy and respectable they are. If we replace them with convicted felons and one of them loses their life there is no loss, truely. True Firefighters are much to valuable to risk doing such a dangerous job. On a truely dangerous emergency the the convicts could be sent in to do the dirty work. This would work!
    3. Who better to save innocent people from a disaster than someone who has had there freedom taken away. These inmates would work extra hard to make sure that someone elses safety and securityis taken care of because they know what it is to lose everything. We all know inmates are all selfless this way.
    4. Because of their real world experience with the law they would be excellent at the one profession in the United States that is permitted by law to enter into anyones home without being invited and without a warrant. (you might have to weigh in on this one Jack) They know the law inside and out. This is really starting to make sense to me now.
    5. Also, since we don’t want to put any really valuable people in harms way or cause good people discomfort let’s sign them up to be parking enforcement officers. Writing parking tickets isn’t fun and no one likes to be yelled at so let’s make the inmates do it. It’s not like they will be carrying a gun. Man, we are really getting to the meat of some cost cutting now.

    But wait a minute. There are some trainied people in the prison system already. Yes! All those Firefighters that have been arrested for DUI or failed to pay child support and have gone to jail. They are in the system. We can utilize them. It doesn’t matter that the Fire Department fired them for there indiscretions. Now we can use their training without paying them.

    It really doesn’t matter that the two Firefighters that they replace have to fight for the refrigerator boxes in the dumpster at BestBuy. They are skilled and resourceful. They will get back on their feet eventually.

    After all, what could be so difficult about spraying water on a fire or putting someone on a cot for a ride to the hospital?

    I have to go look for a cliff to jump off of now.

    • Buck’s sarcasm practically drips off the page, and I understand it; as a career firefighter, he is offended at the suggestion that convicted criminals could competently replace him, and benefit society by doing so. I think, yes, most people do think it’s not difficult to spray water on a fire, or put someone on a cot for a ride to the hospital. The average citizen has no idea of the training, physics, strategy, resources, teamwork, and plain old character that it takes to save a complete stranger, putting yourself in danger in the process. To suggest that someone for whom firefighting isn’t a calling, with demonstrated weak integrity, could perform the job equally, protecting citizens’ and fellow firefighters’ lives in the process, is appalling. And that doesn’t begin to touch on the ick factor of offering this trade to a jail-bound person. Cutting a car open on a busy highway, with traffic rushing past you … exposure to toxic fumes, smoke, and flames from burning buildings … exposure to disease and physical injury from ill and sometimes violent patients … the list of dangers to firefighters is endless, and forcing those onto a non-volunteer is horrible. Will there be arduous pre-selection testing of prisoners to determine physical and mental fitness, as there is of firefigher applicants? Will the training be as thorough? What will the consequences be for misbehavior? What happens to the firefighters who hesitate to work with prisoner firefighters? To the citizens who learn of the program and are afraid to dial 9-1-1?

      Gotta say, having them write parking tickets is a better idea.

  3. Why not skip the intermediary steps, and just send them to the arena, where they can fight wild beasts, and each other, for the entertainment of the crowd? Ticket sales should be enough to double the current firefighting staff.

  4. When your life is on the line, when the lives of loved ones are on the line in the face of danger, do you really want to rely on career criminals?
    These bureaucrats are descended from the judges who offer alternatives of military enlistment to incarceration. The military ends up with unreliable drug users, gang members and outright thieves who have to be weeded out, wasting taxpayer dollars and critical resources.

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