One person who is being vocal is Gayle McLaughlin, the former Richmond mayor who is running for lieutenant governor in 2018. She says using prisoners as firefighters amounts to “slave labor” and calls it an example of a criminal justice system “gone deeply wrong.”

“I want inmates in California to learn new skills – but trading a cell for a wildfire and $1 a day, that’s just crazy,” McLaughlin wrote in an email pitch last week to potential supporters. “We have to pay everyone real wages and restore the civil rights of people who are serving a sentence.”

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