Our news this week focuses on the prisoners who are fighting California’s wildfires for as little as a dollar an hour while actually fighting fires. In total, about thirty-eight hundred male and female inmates are fighting fires in California. They constitute around thirteen percent of the state’s firefighters. Their low salaries save taxpayers a hundred twenty-four million dollars a year. But does this say more about the program or about the prison system itself? This is one of the questions we asked Mohammed Scheck of Critical Resistance, a California based Prison abolition organization. Mohammed gave us some insight into how the program is viewed by inmates, politicians, and the media.
We then finish the 2nd part of Elizabeth Hinton’s lecture on the rise of mass incarceration. In her talk, she traces the creation and rise of mass incarceration as a strategy of America’s ruling class. Her historical research, which culminated in a book last year called “From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime,” demonstrates that the explosion of prison construction predated any rise in crime, but was instead a response to the spread of social unrest and black protest. You can hear the first half of her lecture in last week’s episode of Kite Line.