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By Isaac Newton Tetteh – GITFIConline.com
Nonviolent former prisoners who participated in fire camps will now have an opportunity to become year-round, full-time firefighters.
Lawmakers on Monday approved a bill that will finally allow former prisoners to pursue a career in fire.
The new legislation arrived while fire crews were overwhelmed, facing multiple devastating lightning complex fires across California.
Assembly woman, Eloise Gomez Reyes, said the bill will allow nonviolent offenders, who have long time experience in fire camps while incarcerated, the opportunity to have their records expunged upon release, allowing them to become firefighters.
“If we really want to bring about change and lower our recidivism rates, we have to ensure that those that have served their sentences have an opportunity for meaningful employment,” Reyes tweeted Sunday. “Those that have served on the fire lines deserve a second chance.”
Released inmates who have successfully petitioned a judge to expunge their records and waive parole time, will also have the ability to apply for an emergency medical technician’s license.
Previously, California law has instructed emergency service agencies to deny EMT certification to anyone who has been convicted of two or more felonies, is on parole or probation or has committed any kind of felony within the last decade.
For decades, thousands of inmates, who exhibit “good behavior” while behind bars, have opted to join the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s fire camps, where they act as a hand crew, often the first team on the scene of a fire.
While these inmate crews receive the same training as California’s seasonal firefighters and do much of the same work, digging fire lines and even fighting fires — they are only paid between $2 and $5 a day, plus $1 per hour while fighting an actual fire.
Reyes has pushed for this bill to pass for several years now, only gaining real traction in yet another catastrophic fire season, which has collectively burned 1.48 million acres and resulted in eight fatalities.
Hundreds took to Twitter last week and through the weekend to urge lawmakers to pass the bill, which would aid overrun fire crews in California, among them was the Los Angeles Lakers.
“Thank you to all of our firefighters and first respondent, including our incarcerated men and women fighting the current California wildfires,” The Los Angeles Lakers tweeted Friday. “Human rights are everyone’s rights. Create a pathway for former inmates who successfully completed fire camp while incarcerated.
Source: Fox. Com