Arizona Will Pay Prisoners $1.50 An Hour To Fight Wildfires

Published: Wednesday, June 16, 2021 - 5:51pm

The state Legislature is in a special session to consider a $100 million package that would address wildfire and flood mitigation. Part of the funding will go toward incarcerated work crews.

Seventy-two crews made up of 10 prisoners have been allocated funding.

State Sen. Lisa Otondo is the ranking member of the Natural Resources Energy and Water Committee.

She expressed concern at a hearing on Wednesday that the incarcerated people fighting the fires will only be paid $1.50 an hour.

“And a dollar an hour for those who will be working on what I will call land management,” she said. That includes jobs like clearing brush and filling sandbags to prevent flooding after the fires.

Otondo says moving forward the state should consider raising the wages for prisoners doing this kind of work. She says the Department of Forestry has guaranteed the incarcerated people will have access to proper safety equipment and hydration.

“Our inmates are in the care of the state while they’re incarcerated," Otondo said, "so I want to ensure that they are hydrated, and they have proper break periods.”

The Legislature is expected to approve the funding this week.

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