According to some estimates, the draught in California is worsening by the year with no end in sight. To combat the fires that are springing up all over due to the heat and dry brush, close to 4,000 inmates are being used as volunteer firefighters and rescue crews. Not only does the service provide the inmates with some extra money and a chance to reduce their sentences, but taxpayers are saving millions of dollars each year due to the service. It has been heralded as a successful program by many, and yet there is one catch that is stirring controversy: violent crime offenders may not participate.
Officials have stated that the decision is not based on conviction records but rather individual inmate behaviors. However, there are already a handful of incidents reported that involve nonviolent offenders committing assaults, weapons violations, or escapes while on firefighting duty. Could the idea of allowing inmates of any sort in such a program be flawed intrinsically?
Benefits for Inmates on Firefighting Crews
We all like the idea of saving some taxpayer dollars, but what benefit does this program pose for inmates? Combating a blaze in the hills of California is grueling work, after all, and dangerous in its very essence.
Despite the challenge, many inmates report that the volunteer work does them an invaluable service by allowing them the chance to get outside the prison walls and reconnect with nature. Others say it gives them the opportunity to feel like a productive member of society again, as firefighting is a true service to the commonwealth. Which brings up the question again: should something so positive really be denied to prisoners convicted of violent crime?
After recent review from the California Corrections Department, the decision to bar violent offenders from the volunteer firefighting program still stands. To learn more about this ongoing story, you may be interested in a full article published by The Washington Post (seen here). If you have been charged or convicted of a violent crime and need help fighting for your rights, you can contact our Santa Rosa criminal defense attorney at the Law Offices of Evan E. Zelig, P.C. today and request a free consultation.