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Tuesday, 29 July 2008 02:12

Inmate Firefighters To The Rescue

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slide11.pngCalifornia’s fire-fighting efforts have gotten some much needed support from an unlikely source- inmate firefighters. An average of 2,200 to 2,700 adult inmates, many from Mule Creek State Prison in Ione, have performed some of the most dangerous fire-fighting tasks in return for reduced sentences. In addition, 260 to 290 juvenile inmates, wards of the California Youth Authority, have joined the fight. "These crews provide critical support to the state's firefighting response, going where bulldozers and heavy equipment cannot go," said Governor Schwarzenegger. Along with inmate fire crews, strike teams made up of fire captains, staff and fire engines have been deployed from fire departments at the California Correctional Institution in Tehachapi, California Correctional Center in Susanville, and Mule Creek State Prison in Ione, among others. Firefighters statewide have acknowledged the bravery of the inmates, many of whom have been on the front lines risking their life. So what’s in it for the inmates? "They get two days of credit (off their sentence) for every day served in the program," said Terry Thornton, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. "It's a privilege to be in the program." Inmates are carefully screened before joining the program. Inmates must have no history of violent crime, including kidnapping, sex offenses, arson or escape. The State’s latest estimates calculate that inmates comprise 20 percent of the total state fire-fighters, although the proportion sometimes is far higher.
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