Wildfires Create New Opportunities for California’s Inmates

By: NATASHA VO

As you all may have heard on the news, California is literally in flames with many wildfires spreading quickly, which could mean a lot of work for our firefighters. With so many fires, we only have a limited amount of firefighters, therefore, we turn to our inmates all over California, offering them not only a job, but to go outside of their cells. Inmates are given an opportunity to work as a firefighter, helping prevent the spread of wildfires, but is it really worth it? 

Although most of these inmates have volunteered for this job, they’re forced to work under harsh conditions and days of nonstop fire preventions in the blazing heat. They only get paid between $2-$5 a day with an exceptional $1 per hour if they’re directly at the fires, according to Lapin of NYpost. This opportunity is only given to those with minor felony charges, those who can be trusted, therefore, there’s a limited amount of inmates who can participate. Many inmates were released early due to COVID, which is why they still don’t have enough firefighters even with all the participating inmates. Do the inmates even benefit from this when they’re released? 

On September 11, 2020, gov Newson signed a bill stating that inmates who participated in becoming a firefighter will be able to become a firefighter once they are released. “Inmates who have stood on the frontlines, battling historic fires should not be denied the right to later become a professional firefighter,”(Newson). They receive training in prison and become a firefighter while still in prison, but will be eligible to find a real job as a firefighter when they are released. This opportunity not only gives them free education and a chance to earn money while they’re locked up, but also gives them a job opportunity for when they’re released from prison. 

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