Inmates could soon staff several Georgia fire stations, according to officials in Camden County. They say it would be a cost-cutting program that would make room in the county’s budget. The program would begin by hiring two of them in the south Georgia county.
“Inmates would respond to all emergencies, including residential fires, alongside traditional firefighters,” authorities said.
The inmates would have no guard, but would be monitored by a surveillance system and by the traditional firefighters, who would undergo training to guard the inmates. Authorities say one firefighter with correctional training can supervise up to three inmates.
However, as would be expected there is “a lot of contention” among local firefighters about working alongside inmates, Camden County Public Safety Director Dennis Gailey said.
“If you vote to bring these inmates into our working environment, you jeopardize not only the employees’ well-being, but the safety of our citizens,” firefighter Stuart Sullivan told county commissioners during a recent meeting.
Authorities say the inmate firefighter program could save the county more than $500,000 a year by some estimates. Inmates charged with crimes such as drug offenses and thefts would be eligible.
Commissioner Jimmy Starline said it might be a positive experience for the prisoners. “I’ve been told these inmates are very enthusiastic about being a firefighter,” Starline said. “It’s an opportunity to break that cycle,” he added. “This is not like a chain gang. Life at a fire station could be a whole lot more pleasant than life in jail.”