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inmate firefighters

People living in the State of California are no strangers to wildfires. Each year, the fire season gets worse than the previous one. Millions of acres burn each year, placing both homes and human lives at significant risk. The damage would be far worse if it were not for the brave men and women who fight the fires.

While fighting fires, domestic or wild, is a full-time job for thousands of Californians, many people do not know that some of those who attempt to contain the flames are inmates.

There are also more than 2,500 prisoners who serve on fire crews in California as we speak, according to The Los Angeles Times. What’s more, these men and women are not forced to hike into the wilderness and put their lives at risk; they volunteer. They are trained, and you’d maybe think that they may one day work for a fire department after their release.

Unfortunately, as things stand now, it’s nearly impossible for people with criminal records to get the necessary licenses needed to become a city or county firefighter, according to the article. Blanket restrictions on professional licensing, such as the emergency medical technician license, make all the training inmates receive useless outside of prison.

Giving Inmates a Second Chance

The Times Editorial Board writes that people willing to do the heroic work of firefighting for between $2 and $5 a day, plus $1 per hour when they’re on a fire while in prison, should have the opportunity to put their skills to use outside of prison. They point out that the California prison system has many job training and rehabilitation programs for inmates, so they can have a better shot of finding employment upon release. Such programs mitigate the risk of recidivism.

California law directs local emergency services agencies to deny EMT certification to any applicant who:

  • Has been convicted of two or more felonies,
  • is on parole or probation,
  • or has committed any kind of felony within the past 10 years.

Over the years, bills have been considered to change the law, the editorial reports. The most recent, Assembly Bill 1211, was shelved after firefighters associations contested the legislation. AB 1211 will be considered again next year.

California Criminal Defense Lawyer

Attorney Ronald Brower has more than three decades of experience advocating for defendants and their families. He has a reputation for achieving favorable verdicts for his clients. Please contact the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower if you are facing legal challenges.

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