YESTERDAY THERE WERE 3,091 PRISON INMATES on the fire lines cutting, chopping, clearing along with the career firefighters. The California Department of Corrections prison inmate firefighter program has been in existence since the 1940’s and provides a ready workforce for other natural disasters such as earthquakes and flooding. They are easily identified by their orange jumpsuits with CDC PRISONER written on their back.
In order to qualify for the program, they must be physically fit, have no history of violent crime and have four to 36 months remaining on their sentences. The inmates earn $1 an hour plus two days credit for each day on the fire lines. For many the greater prize is the prospect of an early release parole and glowing references from correctional authorities. Certain inmates — murderers, rapists, child molesters and convicted gang members — are barred from serving in the program. Arsonists are also forbidden from joining.
[photopress:reut_1ff.jpg,full,centered][photopress:reut_1ee.jpg,full,centered] Female Inmates Are Also Used In The Program
After leaving prison, many of them return to a productive life by going to work for CalFire, the firefighting force of the state Forestry Department.