Georgia prisoners may replace county firemen

Firefighters typically wait for disasters to happen.

In south Georgia's Camden County, where firefighters may soon be required to oversee state prisoners as they fight fires, an entirely new kind of disaster is waiting to happen.

The Florida Times-Union tells us the rural county, home to Cumberland Island, a nuclear submarine base and the lovely St. Marys, is trying to improve its insurance rating to save money on insurance costs.

One of the plans being considered is called the "inmate-to-firefighter" program, which would place two prisoners in each of the county's three fire stations. The paid firefighters would be required to monitor the unpaid inmates and train them to save lives and property.

The proposal would allegedly save the rural county $500,000 a year.

I'm not sure how much an "inmate-to-county-commissioner" program would save, but it makes more sense. At least taxpayers don't count on elected officials to rush into their burning homes and save their lives.

Current Camden County firemen aren't keen on adding "prison guard" to their resume. One attended a county commission meeting and 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."

A county commissioner said the inmates are "very enthusiastic about being a firefighter" and have been screened so minor criminals such as thieves and drug dealers will be entering people's homes.

Prisoners already work as firemen in Sumter County (aka Americus).

The prisoner program there saves the county a lot of money, officials say, because the inmates, unlike traditional firemen, are available to work 24-hours a day, seven days a week, for free.

A paid firefighter works one 24-hour day and then has two days off.

Sumter officials said it costs at least $40,000 to pay a fireman per year, but inmates that can work all three shifts only need food and housing, which costs less than $15,000 per year.

With six inmates in Camden working all three shifts, the county would save more than $100,000 a year per inmate, officials say.

It's much cuter when a kid says he wants to grow up to be a fireman than when a prisoner says he wants to get out to be a fireman.

More news I ran across Friday: