As extreme heat, drought, and wildfires spread across the state, Arizona is allocating funding to pay incarcerated people fighting those wildfires $1.50 per hour. Incarcerated people clearing brush, in temperatures that hit 115°F in Phoenix for six days in a row last week, will make $1.00 per hour. The Thirteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution prohibits slavery, “except as a punishment for [a] crime” for which the person has been convicted. Wildfires, fueled by heat and drought made worse by climate change, have raged across the state in recent weeks, forcing numerous evacuations. Drought and demand to fight wildfires have depleted San Carlos Lake to the point where its water can no longer be used for that purpose.
The funding for incarcerated firefighters was included in a $100 million package passed in a special session that precluded raising their pay. Republicans who control the Arizona House rejected provisions guaranteeing rest for inmate crews who had worked seven straight days on the fire line. (Incarcerated firefighters: Tuscon.com, KJZZ, Democracy Now; Drought: Arizona Family; Heat: AP; Evacuations: AP, AP; Commentary: Washington Post, Michael Crimmins op-ed $)