The Invaluable Work of California’s Inmate Firefighters | The Daily Show

The Invaluable Work of California’s Inmate Firefighters | The Daily Show

Wildfires. As the climate changes
and the land becomes drier, they’re becoming
an even bigger problem, burning down seven million acres in the United States each year. Which is terrible,
because without forests, Don, Jr. would have nowhere
to sit. Now, although wildfires
have recently been on the rise, these blazes have been
a major issue in America for a very long time,
so much so, that the U.S. Forest Service
even created a hero devoted to stopping the fires,
Smokey Bear. You have so many reasons
to protect your forest. Hey, kids.
I’m Smokey Bear. Remember, only you can prevent
forest fires. ♪ My friends depend on me ♪ ♪ Smokey B, to voice a plea. ♪ Buzz, what’s up, man? You left some leaves
burning out here. So the next time
you’re in the forest, be extra careful. Okay? (chuckles)
If you knew it was me, would you have listened? (screaming) What the (bleep) was that? Forget fires. I’m never
gonna be able to trust a beautiful woman ever again. “Say, Trevor, want to go back
to my place?” “Get the hell out of here,
you bear! I’m not falling
for your tricks.” But, yes, for decades, America has tried everything
to prevent wildfires. And in California, they’ve gone way beyond
talking bears. We’re finally learning
some good news about the wildfires
in California. Most of the fires
still considered active are either well under control
or almost out thanks to the thousands
of firefighters who have been battling
the flames alongside hundreds of inmates. You see all the firefighters
in orange? Those are California inmates. The state
has been using prisoners to fight fires
since World War II. Yeah. That is really,
really interesting. Inmates in California
can volunteer to help put out fires that
have gotten out of control. And I-I think it’s great
that these prisoners are willing to help
in a time of need. And just for extra motivation,
I think they should be allowed to bring their squad from prison to hype them up as they fight
the fire, you know. Yeah, they can just be standing
in the back like, “Yo, get his ass, T-bone. “Extinguish this bitch. “Remove either oxygen,
fuel or heat. That’s what you do
to stop a fire.” Now, you would think
any prisoner volunteering for a dangerous job like this would be in it
for some big reward. But it turns out,
that’s not the case. TV REPORTER:
Inmate firefighters get paid an average of two dollars
a day. When they’re battling
live fires, they earn an additional
one dollar per hour. Though they only earn
about a dollar per hour to risk their lives, every day of work
as an inmate firefighter counts as two days
toward their sentence. Wait, hold up. Inmates get two days
off their sentence for every day
they fight the fire? That’s not much of a reduction. Like, if I was an inmate,
I’d just want to keep the fire going. Yeah. (laughter) I’ll just be out there like,
“Oh, no. “I accidentally turned my hose to the ‘spread fire’ setting
again. Oh, darn.” (laughter) And, also, I, like… I don’t care
if they’re prisoners. Getting a few dollars a day
to fight a wildfire is bullshit. Now, while the prisoners
are getting basically nothing for doing a dangerous job,
the state of California saves an estimated
$100 million a year by using inmates
to fight the fires. And what’s extra messed up is that despite fighting fires
year after year while in prison, many of these inmates
aren’t allowed to use any
of that firefighting experience once they’ve served their time. NEWSWOMAN:
Despite their experience, an inmate firefighter
may find it tough to land a full-time job after they complete
their sentence. (reading): When they leave that service,
they are told they will never, ever be allowed to be a firefighter. Okay, you got to admit,
that’s just shitty. You fight fires in prison,
but then when you’re released, you’re not allowed
to do it professionally? So, basically, if you’re
an ex-con walking around and you see a fire, what? You have to commit a crime
before they’ll let you help? Just like, “Oh, no,
that orphanage is on fire. Quick, help me rob this bank!” So the question is
should prison firefighters be allowed to enter the noble
profession of firefighting after they’ve served their time? Well, to give us
some expert perspective, we’re joined by the most noble
firefighter of all. Smokey the Bear, everybody. (cheering and applause) Smokey… where do you stand on the issue of ex-cons working
as firefighters? First of all, Trevor, thanks for inviting a bear
onto your show. #DiversityMatters. And secondly, I believe ex-cons
could make great firefighters. And I’m a living example. Wait, are-are you saying
that you’re an ex-convict? That’s right. Shout-out to my boys
in San Quentin. Stay hard, my brothers. Wait, wait,
what were you in jail for? In the ’90s,
I ran a Ponzi scheme that preyed on the elderly. But I didn’t know right
from wrong. I was doing a lot of blow. Damn, that is hard-core.
I-I thought it would be for something like
stealing honey or something. Wow, Trevor.
Just ’cause I’m a bear, you assume I steal honey? Do I look like Winnie the Pooh? That’s racist. Oh, no, no, I… No, I didn’t… I didn’t mean, um,
to offend you. -I’m sorry. I’m sorry.
-Okay, I forgive you. See, that’s what
this country’s all about: giving people second chances. That’s why anyone who wants to
fight fires should be able to. Except for people who won’t
put out their campfires. Those people should have their
dicks ripped off by a bear. But not me. I’m still on parole! Wow, that’s, uh, pretty extreme. Not as extreme
as discriminating against people who’ve paid their debt
to society. Ex-convicts should be able
to train as firefighters. And that’s why
I’m changing my slogan to “Remember,
only you and cell block ‘D’ can prevent forest fires.” Well, thank you so much
for joining us. Smokey the Bear, everyone.

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  1. That is really mean. Ex cons have a very hard time to get employment when they get out. Here they get a trade and experience and they are denied. That's like giving a baby candy , then taking it away and saying you can never have candy again.

  2. Inmate work is literal slavery. We have 3 million prisoners, 25% of the global prison population. Our laws are structured to imprison as many as possible, so we can use them for free labor. Slavery is alive and well, people!! Like for visibility.

  3. Either someone has served their time or they haven't, pick a lane. We have these convicts learning a valuable skill they can't use on the outside, this is so stupid.

  4. I'm not the only one thinking that this is dangerously treading a line very close to slavery, am I? I mean, they're being paid, sure. But is a dollar worth risking your life for? Is that not dehumanizing those inmates?

  5. Depending on the time I was serving id run right into the fire line" I gotta save our state " then disappear running naked and leaving the suit behind.

  6. I know it's comedy but it was a little uncomfortable having you mock people who put their lives at risk. Sigh. I agree they should be able to get EMT licenses. What you didn't mention is that only the people who had committed the most minor of crimes are even allowed to volunteer to fight fires. One perk you didn't mention is that they get fed really well. Steaks. Things they'd never see in prison. Eating crap year after year can make it really motivating to have an opportunity to eat good food. I think more inmates should have the opportunity to fight fires, and that everyone that does it successfully (some run away or do other things), should have an opportunity to work in the field after release.

  7. They don't deserve to be paid a dime. You're serving a sentence, this is volunteer work — be glad you aren't stuck in a cell all day. Two days off a sentence for every day fighting fires is MORE than fair. Be glad you're given the opportunity to reduce your sentence. Don't wanna deal with it? Don't end up in jail. THEY ARE CRIMINALS.

  8. Ok, the real problem is that in Cali you have to be EMT certified to become a Firefighter…..and you can't usually get this certification having a record……otherwise, there are so many things about this program that are a good thing. There are some cases where ex cons that participated in this program were able to get hired as firefighters. Also, they live on minimum security conservation camps, which is NOT anything like being in prison, in comparison.

  9. Here's food for thought, about 70 percent of fire fighter's are either or combined volunteer and pay on call. However, 80% of calls are ems therefore the same ff are the same who would drive you to the hospital. I'm a volunteer and POC, I love the field but I have to work in another field to pay my Bills. I dont think there's another field quiet like it

  10. Taking incarcerated individuals and turning them into reformed and even beneficial members of society is too close to what prison is actually meant to be for and doesn't make as much money for the for-profit prison system…sooo yeah it'll never happen. USA! USA!

  11. Then doesn't it make sense that the people starting these fires are associates of inmates that are trying to get sentences reduced?

  12. as a former soldier we were sent to fight wild fires as well. and i DO NOT think inmates with major felonies should be allowed to be fire fighters. they are getting a reduce sentence from fighting the fire.

  13. The problem with ex-inmates becoming firefighters is that if they fall back to their criminal ways and they go into houses, you never know if they might quickly steal things inside that house that haven't burned yet. Because no one is going to suspect them doing it as real firefighters. So, that's kinda problematic.

  14. I think the 2 days services = 1 day off the sentence is ok. If you're sentenced to 20 years, you need to at least do 10 years since you did commit a crime. However, the 2 dollars a day seems like slave work to me. It should be higher, if not the same as active firefighters salary. Yes, they're not trained professionals but the fire is the same, the danger is the same.

  15. meanwhile, while inmates are risking their lives to stop fires, trump and his ilk are making television appearances and repeating nonsense about the fires are caused by california being a blue state. Not the dry weather mixed with high winds, no no that's silly, apparently fires are caused by disliking trump. That's where we are as a nation. Where a good chunk of the voting population can hear that and go "yup, that makes sense." I don't know who's the bigger dumbass, him, or the idiots who worship the ground he walks on.

    On topic…well, the low wage sucks but they're still inmates. prison is supposed to be a punishment, not a guaranteed job program. you can make arguments about the causes of them being in prison to begin with, and honestly that's fair, but that's another topic and I'm not going to be upset about the low wages. The lack of counting it as work experience though, that seems a bit silly. if you know something, then you know it. are you really going to turn away a willing public servant? these are non-violent offenders after all, and it's not a freebie or handout. unless there are other circumstances on an individual basis, that would make sense but if not…seems silly to turn away a willing firefighter.

  16. Probably half of those inmates are in for weed possession, and probably cant sell weed, or fight fires when they get out…

  17. The fact that we still use prison labor is not so bad but it is really unjust to pay them so poorly – slave wages – & furthermore to deny them gainful employment that would allow them to use their skills. Here is another example of some further need for policy changes in prison reform.

  18. For the past few months ive been speaking with a judge about this topic. Interesting to see how much attention this is getting now.

  19. amerikkka, land of racism, legal inequities, and general unfairness. maybe global warming and mother earth sick of our shit !!

  20. Slavery never ended, it just evolved. We don’t have the highest prison incarceration in the world because we are the freest. The smart and wise will take their families and leave this place before it’s to late. War is brewing. As this nation begins to tear itself apart, the hungry beasts will come for redemption. The land will be barren as can be as the poison rains curse the land. The dirt rich in blood it will be as it has taken back from the thief.

  21. It’s slave labor. Every inmate who wants to, deserves the option to get the education and gain the skills to the a full time firefighter when they get out.

    So sucks!!!!

  22. I'd say if they assist as firefighters, they should get some sort of compensation. Whether that be a week off their sentence or at least some sort of reasonable payment. I mean I worked at Home Depot for $13.50 an hour and I'm pretty sure it's easier than fighting a fire.

    Also that bear sounds seems like the flex seal guy.

  23. in US, prisoners get paid $1 per hour to work. in kenya, free men get paid $3 dollars a day for their manual work. I think I am going to US to be a prisoner

  24. These fire fighters do this voluntarily. This is not completely true, Trevor. It depends on what the crime is they were convicted of. You're are buying into the hype and not researching.

  25. These inmates have more courage and honor than the man who is threatening to cut off federal aid to help them put these fires out…and he's a bigger criminal then all of them combined.

  26. Becoming a FireFighter in the CITY is COMPLETELY DIFFERENT from WILD-LAND Firefighting… you don't need to do ANYTHING but carry 40 pounds on a pack test and pass a normal employment process.

    If just getting the EMT certification was the ONLY thing… everyone would be a firefighter in town…. this piece really makes no sense and is ignorant of the fact they ARE qualified to be wild-land firefighters… because ANYONE can be, even…ta da… a prisoner

  27. Yeah slavery 2.0 right there. I understand why Kamala harris convicted so many black people for so minor crime and refused the release of a innocents men when the proof of their innocence was there. Because, the California state is to happy to use them to fight fire…

  28. John Oliver did a bit about this same subject on one of his shows about inmates making money in prisons. It is very interesting and informative as well.

  29. This town I live in don't pay the jailers nothing for doing labor, just a little more freedom inside for being lied on. They do what they want. They are still gaining their wealth off the backs of the less fortunate. I'll see, if they had no homelessness. Everyone gets help, but it only benefits the already wealthy. Called GREED!

  30. Would have loved it if Smokey had continued to say outrageous things, only to end his bit by pulling off his costume saying "If you had known it was me, would you have listened?" – revealing to be Costa underneath 😂

  31. "Not as extreme as discriminating against people who have paid their debt to society." Well said smokey. Well said. If Americans make any crime a life sentence outside of the courts, then what's the point of having smaller sentences in the courts?

  32. Unless you committed a crime whereas the job has you working directly with the same vulnerable persons you committed the crime against; say sex offenders and children in schools; no application for employment or housing should be allowed to ask you about your criminal background once you are no longer incarcerated or on parole. Further; inmates (mostly held in private prisons these days) should be paid a living wage for working in such private businesses. This way they can pay off their financial obligations and save for when they are released. Many released inmates have little to no money when they are released; giving them nowhere to go; nor the ability to make their lives any better; pushing them back into a life of crime.

  33. Well, …………. hmmm, this is a tough one. This is how I think of civil service: the problem that we have currently is that there doesn't seem to be any stop gaps to whom we entrust to serve the public. Whether it be medical, political, policing and civil service i.e. government workers. What this costs our society as a whole is drug addict nurses and doctors who put patient lives at risk, molestation of patient populations, teachers who molest their students of all ages, police who literally kill the people that they swore to protect, politicians who rob their constituents blind or become dictators of entire countries, civil servants who rob the petty cash, are rude to the public that they serve etc etc etc. So firefighters are another position of civil trust. As a whole, we would probably see, statistically, crimes being committed by ex cons who are allowed to serve the public in a position of trust. This isn't a generality because I would suspect that there would be more that wouldn't than would but until our society can figure out how to ensure the property and safety then it wouldn't be a good idea to license or allow ex cons the opportunity to serve the public as a profession.

    Which, on a side line, is why I don't think that laws that allow felons to not vote should be repealed. Granted not all convicts and ex cons would participate in acts of crime but some may and have already demonstrated an ability and willingness to break the law so the general idea is that their vote could also be bought. There used to exist a concern that organized crime would take over the political spectrum by stacking the deck with their own 'employees' to ensure outcomes and I think that that concern is still valid but it would be nice to solve the problem so that even after a person has served their time they could become a whole citizen again but as it stands now, we need to work on eliminating corruption before taking a step to solve the problem of citizenship with limitations.

    Yes, convicts do serve the public in fighting fires but they are supervised. Do we really want to trial what it would be like without supervision? Just my thoughts on the subject.

  34. you must have never been to cali or jail/prison. once I was arrested starved and beaten till I signed what ever they wanted me to sign. 3 k fine ordered to leave state of cali for 3 years and spend 100 days in jail. my crime feeding homeless vets saying what is wrong with you once to a white person makin threats to my a 65 years old mentally ill homeless vet was beaten to death by 6 cops. news fbi local public defenders did not care that I served half my life in us military, You think black people have it bad try being a muslim in us military and feeding a homeless vet . go try it

  35. Until the ex con takes the department issued fire ax and goes on a killing spree. Then y'all will be like "er mah gawd, what idiot thought it would be a good idea to hire an ex con?". Now, I'm not saying do not give ex cons a chance at a new life but there is a reason they are not placed in positions of authority. If you break the law without any authority how much easier would it be when you do have authority? Sure, the fire department is not the police but a child will trust a fire department employee simply because he is wearing the uniform. An ex con can not ever be given that kind of trust. Yes, I know y'all are gonna say how many of them repented and really just want to be a good person. I get that. But I still would not put a uniform on them that automatically garners trust. Not because I'm ignoring that 90% of ex cons might turn out great but because of the 10% that will not turn out great and so we err on the side of caution to protect 100% of the innocent people that would get harmed if we guessed wrong.

  36. There is a couple named, Laura and John Arnold who are philanthropists who will help people expunge their criminal records so that the ex-convicts can get jobs and find housing. There is also a program in California called CCC, Citizens Conservation Corps, that helps clean up the forests, campgrounds and hiking trails all over California.

  37. Regardless of where you fall in the Smokey the bear vs Smokey bear name controversy… I just wish they would at least stay consistent in a segment

  38. Conservatives: Joseph Stalin imprisoned people in gulags where they had to do prison labor
    Also conservatives: let's have prisoners in the United States do prison labor

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