Prison Fire Camps
Prison Fire Camps .
Over the 30-something years I have been a California lawyer, I have learned about fire-camp from the inmate’s point of view. Young healthy inmates who have a prison sentence to serve for a non-violent crime have often asked about going to “fire camp”. California prisoners have wanted the excitement and the reduction of time from their sentences that fire camp offers.
Until these last few years of drought, where firefighters have been stretched to the breaking point, prison fire camp was not something average Californians were aware of.
Prison fire camp is a “win-win”. The participants WANT to be there. They may go to camp as a means of getting out from behind prison walls and serving their sentences more quickly, but they learn what it is like to work together in a group, and to be thanked by a grateful community. None of them will pass background checks to be firefighters when they are released, but the “high” of serving a thankful community will not go away.
California is considering a bill which would allow a greater number of inmates to be available for fire camp—including those convicted of violent offenses. This is more controversial of course. No sex offenders, no serious violence, no parties convicted of gang offenses and of course no arsonists will be allowed the privilege of fighting fires. But this opens the possibility for more prisoners to prove themselves and more firefighters to be on duty in drought-ravaged California.