Prisoners Have Been Taken Out of Prison to Fight Wildfires

California’s Conservation Camp Program is hiring and paying Californian prison inmates to help battle fires.

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Californian inmates heading out to fight a fire.

Tyler Hatfield , Staff Writer

This year, California has employed around 3,100 prison inmates to fight the devastating wildfires out west. They have been employed as part of the state’s Conservation Camp program. The Conservation Camp program provides critical support to state and federal agencies who are responding to emergencies.

Despite their long, hard training and special efforts in these times of crisis, most inmates are often denied roles in fire departments in California after they have been released from prison due to their felony records. Mark Farouk, a spokesman of California, said “These inmates go through the training and then they want to go on and pursue additional training and that door is closed to them.” Earlier this year, Mark Farouk introduced a bill that seeks to ease restrictions on ex-convicts, however, this bill has been put on hold by California, but may be considered again in January of 2021.

According to CNN, only prisoners who need less security and have a record of good behavior are eligible to take on the task of fighting the raging fires. Of those who volunteer, they receive the same entry-level training that the state’s seasonal firefighters would receive. The inmates work many hours, earning between $2.90 and $5.12 a day, with an additional $1 an hour when they are battling the raging fires. If they do not want money, they can earn reduced prison sentences instead. These wages are higher than most other prison jobs, however, they do come with significantly higher risk. At least six incarcerated firefighters have died on duty since 1986.