Georgia Cost-Saving Plan Adds Inmates to Firehouse Staffing

ST MARYS, Ga. (AP) — Officials in southeast Georgia are considering a money-saving program that would put inmates in fire stations. The Florida Times-Union reports ( that the program would put two inmates in each of three existing firehouses in Camden County.



Times are tough and many departments, career and volunteer, are having a hard time maintaining even minimum staffing. Is this Georgia plan even worth the risk when considering public image and public relations?

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Jack what fire class are you, ISO rating. Over 60% of this county was rated a class 9 or 10. That is basically no fire protection or no creatable fire protection. Rates for homeowners are set different all over the US. This is a whole other subject.

As far as the population of the US it was a test to see how many will blindly accept information. And you are good to point it out. I’m sure you must be in a command position. You can check which I’m sure you have the other numbers; I’m under on most counts.

Georgia is a right to work state so unions do not have the same power as up north. I used to be a union steward and rep. So the intent here is not to bust unions or take jobs from people and it has created jobs where there where none before.

No this not slavery, it is voluntary for them to come into the program. They are non-violent crimes that they are here for and the rest of this stuff I have covered over and over.  

These are mostly small communities with limited tax base and good people living there. Yea I agree with most of you that people should pay for what they get and there are no real angels in jail. There is nothing more I can say to convince some of you this is a good program, it saves money, created jobs and provides needed services for good people.

The questions was could this work? And the answer is yes it could, it has and it is.

I’m not put here on this earth to judge and no one is (read your bible) Do I think there are people that belong in jail and should never see the light of day? Hell yes! I have toanswer for my own sins in life.  

Before you completely just go crazy give it a chance, see for yourself and make informed decisions. Research like you did to prove the numbers wrong and not just rant. I love being a FF as much as you and would love to see more employed in this field. But the jobs are not there.

So what is being said if you don’t want to pay for FF’s or FD then you should not even volunteer? You should turn your head when you see that wreak or house burning down. This is not in my nature or most on group.

Scott, I think you have been reading and hearing the biggest down side to this program. No matter how much proof you have there are some you cannot get through to.

Also like most here I would love to see more jobs for the good hard working, qualified people that have studied hard and kept out of trouble to be a part of this brotherhood.

 This program like anything new has bugs to work out, but honestly there has been no major problem. None of the fears of inmates stealing or doing wrong has happened. They honestly understand the opportunity that is offered to them and have stepped.   

It seems as though you missed the point as well as neglecting to answer the question. You state this program has not taken any jobs, but you also aren't looking ahead.


So once again, what happens when things do improve economically and there is reason for a community to provide for their own fire services rather than relying on state sponsored slave labor? Because I highly doubt that a community would give up such free labor and look to provide for their own services when getting things for free. Really, such a program is nothing more than community welfare.


Sure we pay taxes anyway and have a limited say in how it gets spent, but then why should communities already footing the bill for their own service, thus foot it for another community because they can't or more to the point, won't provide for their own service? You say these are "good people" living in the areas, yeah, I'm sure they are, but it is also their decision on where they live too. The burden of providing services should befall them and not the state DOC.


So while other communities are paying for such services, then why would that community wish to accept the burden of providing their own service when the economy does improve? Let alone, why then shouldn't other places look for such community welfare and look to actually take jobs away from people because we can get some cheap slave labor?


Let's not forget the fact that having such a program does limit those who did NOT break the law, from landing a job. It shows that the better way to get such a FF job is to thus break the law and get sent to prison. You are rewarded for being a criminal.



As for the Dicken's Christmas Carol comment, it is about the concept of work-houses. Why look to hire and employ law abiding citizens when we can just use cheap convict labor? After all that is what we are seeing in the economic conditions today, a widening gap between wealth and poverty, a shrinking middle class, workers seeing wages and benefits consistently decreased and so forth. Now comes a program like this where those who break the law are rewarded with such a job as firefighter, fully embraced by the beancounters who's only viewpoint is that of money, vs the actual people.

Actually I have answered that question before and I can’t answer for others, my hope as with many that are in this position is if they do not replace these inmates than rise the pay of the ones watching over them as the economy improves. Increase serves thus opening more jobs. Raise it to the point that many in this service do not have to work extra jobs just to get by.

Again slavery is forcing someone to do something they do not want to do, this is a voluntary program. The candidates are screened before being offered a chance to try out for the program. So you are not guaranteed a slot and if you don’t know the prison system it isn’t someplace you would want to take a chance just to get on a fire team. If they are that stupid than they don’t stand a chance to get on anyway.   

This actually breaks down to the economics and safety, how many FF’s out there work in a department/ station where there is 1 – 3 FF assigned? How many run EMS and fire with the same people out of the same station? Three persons assigned to a station and two run the bus on a medical leaving one to run fire, since most of our calls are medical. How safe is that?

As far as public perception of the fire service I have heard as many negative comments as for good ones. About how all we do is set around, etc., etc. Will if the programs and inspection are effective hopefully that is all we would do, but we all know the truth to this.    

Brian, aside of the trust and public image issues that others have mentioned, I want to discuss your point on the 1-3 FF's "on duty". It is fairly common around here. The taxpayer chose his or her level of fire protection services, (like 1-3) paid guys when they voted to operate a paid, paid-on-call, or volunteer fire department.  In previous discussions, you mention the majority of fire department's in the United States are volunteer. I think we all know that is correct, but the decision to operate a volunteer or paid department is primarily based off of society and economics.  i read your profile and note you work for a company that does ISO tests and ratings.  Your program is targeting communities that clearly wouldn't fund protection services to begin with. You mention areas with little or no protection for upwards to 30 minutes. If you implement this program, I suspect there are no paid personnel in those areas to begin with. So who is going to supervise the prisoner-firefighters?  I am still under the assumption the community fathers have already chosen their protection level. Now by adding a few prisoner-firefighters to a department that already has 1-3 paid firefighters on duty, would that addition really better their ISO rating and lower insurance costs?  I could see a huge advantage to going to an on duty crew of 4, in an area that has a current 30 minute wait... but then again, who would be paying for the "paid supervisor" if he or she never existed before? 


I'm still waiting to hear where exactly the funding comes from for the one paid 'supervisor/corrections officer' firefighter.  Brian has said that funds are transferred to the fire service,"..the funds that are already being used to feed cloth and house the inmates are moved over to the fire service..."  But is the FF paid by DOC, state funds or some kind of witchcraft?

At BEST, this program is designed to eliminate 3 out of 4 (possible) paid FF slots, the fourth working as a cross-trained corrections officer/firefighter. 

I find it unsettling that so much effort (and money) would be put into a program that, if not directly eliminating firefighter jobs would severely limit the number of future paid FF's, opting instead for unpaid, convicted felon firefighters.

Finally, I see this as a very dogmatic program.  Either you buy into it (pun intended) completely and unquestioningly or you don't.  Seems most in here don't.  Moreover, there is the Law of Unintended Consequences to be considered.  Maybe the intent here is solely altruistic - to help rehabilitate prisoners - however, once communities (and their political overseers) realize that something (fire protection) can be had for nothing (little or no money), which way do you think they are going to go?



Your definition of slavery is not accurate.  Slavery isn't just forcing someone to do something against their will.


Slave labor is a form of labor where the worker is not free to leave the employer and where the worker is not paid fair market value for his/her work.  The prisoner/firefighter program for which you advocate absolutely IS the use of slave labor.


I also wonder what would happen if one of the prisoner/firefighters decided to escape.  If I were the career firefighter and I wasn't a police officer, then I would  have no legal right to keep the prisoner in custody.  In fact, if the prisoner threatened me, I'd have the legal right to hold the fire station door open for the prisoner as he escaped in order to protect my own safety. 


Even worse, if the career firefighters are not law enforcement officers, then there could even be a legal argument that they are kidnappers and are guilty of felonies themselves. 


This program is a bad, bad, bad idea.

Said very well Russ!

BAD idea!! The rest of the FFN members have said it best. My point to make is- I am keeping a clean record with the police in an attempt to be a good canidate for a department to hire when I am old enough and have the training under my belt. Geeze if Camden County is going to hire the "bad guys"- why be a "good guy"?

They don't seem to want to build new stations, hire new employees, or try to get a volunteer depatment or two set up. Naw forget that-just hire the "bad guys". Don't have to pay them salaries-all you have to do is pay to train the current firefighters to be guards!! Brilliant idea!! Good luck getting those firefighters to want to be guards in their own "homes"!! If they wanted to be guards they would have gone into law enforcement!!

Ben, as I stated before this is not slavery the program is voluntary for the inmates. If they do not want to be here we do not need them or force them. They do not have to be here and if they do not follow the rules they go back inside. If they want to run then waive by and call the CI to report it. We are supervisors of inmates placed in a trustee status, that’s all. We know the rules as to what they can and cannot do. They do not follow the rules than back inside they go.

If you are unable to defend yourself, than you have that same problem in life, what do you do now? As far as legal issue, again this is not half-ass done, believe me or come see for yourself.

FETC, as stated before they are providing these services for the same funds that they were already paying for the city to provide limited services.

And for 1-3 FF, standards for NFPA are at least 4 per engine (2 in – 2 out), 6 per ladder, we can make a whole other discussion on this subject.  As far as ISO goes yes we consult with FD’s all over the country to help get them ready, if a FD is operating with less than 4 FF on an engine they are not credited as a FD. ISO more or less follows NFPA standards and again this can be a whole other topic. We have been consulting for over 16 years and have assisted in over 100 inspections a year.

We try to teach the public that the FD is the only agency that doesn’t cost a community any money and actually saves money to the citizens. Basic economics, they can stimulate their own economy by supporting the FD.

Honestly there is nothing I can say for some of you to believe the benefits of this program all around. It is new and it is human nature to hate change. This program has been going for over 2 years now and has made a big impact to the community, the FD as a whole and the inmates.

We have had one former inmate that came up on a 4 wheeler accident and remembering his training was able to do CPR to save the man’s life and many other great stories. Our FF’s now know they are making even more of an impact by helping turn these inmate life’s around.

We just had one go home this morning, he has been with us for 2 years, and he was one of the first group of 12. It was truly hart warming to see the change it has made in his and our lives. Yes these guys have done wrong and yes they need to pay their debt but not all are evil nasty mean people. That is not who this program is for and never will be.

And I’m sorry but if this allows us to create just one more job that wasn’t available in the service today and allow us to keep our FF safer to do the job and help to keep one more person from going back into the system I do not see what you are worried about. Unless you are bad at your job you shouldn’t have to worry.  

Standards for FD very all over the country, you could have a felony go to court and have it expunged or plead no-low finish your sentence and say you never been arrested, convicted or severed jail time. Some will hire depending on what it was, so unless someone tells you how will you know?

If you have a clean record great keep it that way you only have to answer to yourself and for yourself.

Hitler had the same type of thinking, cheap labor using the Jews!!   

whatever helps the "father land" / "state"  Hitler thought the same when forcing Jews to work. 

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