2017: Convict Firefighters

We all know of the recent catastrophic fires that have raged across the United States and destroyed valuable land and homes. The most severe fires are located in California, part of the driest area in the country. Firefighters have bravely combated these fires throughout this past year. Several unsung heroes stood out among the rest.

The C.D.C.R inmate firefighter program provides incarcerated women with an opportunity to redeem themselves through fighting fires. The program enables them to earn a wage while also serving as a rehabilitation program. Women who work hard within their corrective facilities are then able to receive time outside of their cell. However, this work isn’t easy by any means. Wages are low, and the work is often too grueling for their minimal pay.

Within a firefighting training camp, a 3-week course must be passed in order for the women to be cleared to work on the ‘battlefield’, as some call it. Their hard work pays a maximum of $2.56 per hour. Once on the fire-struck mountains, they can earn a maximum of $1 per hour. The program saves California taxpayers 100 million dollars per year.

Some argue that the women that have been working on the fires for an extended period of time should not even be in prison. David Fathi, a leader of the A.C.L.U national prison project told reporters, ‘‘I think one important question to ask is, if these people are safe to be out and about and carrying axes and chainsaws, maybe they didn’t need to be in prison in the first place”.

Whether the benefits the women receive are too meager or perfectly adequate is up for debate, however, one thing remains certain. The bravery these women have continuously displayed in attempts to make up for their criminal histories has contributed significantly to the overall attempt to reduce fire hazards throughout California.