CALIFORNIA – California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill on Friday, September 11, allowing inmate firefighters who’ve worked on the frontlines to help battle wildfires to have their records expunged after serving their sentences. Certain California inmates are more likely to become professional firefighters under the new law.

“Inmates who have stood on the frontlines, battling historic fires should not be denied the right to later become a professional firefighter,” said Newsom via Twitter.

Imamates are excluded by the bill if they are convicted of certain crimes, including murder, kidnapping, rape, arson, sex offense or any felony punishable by death or life imprisonment.

The Conservation Camp Program was initiated by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to provide inmates the opportunity to voluntarily work for the fire camps. There are 44 conservation fire camps locating in 27 counties.

For decades, California has recruited inmates to help battle the state’s wildfires. Inmates are typically paid $1 per hour while they are out for work and receive $ 2 per day when they are off duty.

California has approximately 3,700 inmates working at conservation camps under the California Conservation Camp program and about 2,600 of those are fire line-qualified, according to the bill.

In 2017, 650 inmates helped suppress the Pocket, Tubbs, and Atlas Fires; in 2018, about 800 inmates assisted with the Camp Fire in Butte County; more than 400 inmates worked to battle the Kincade Fire in 2019.

The Peace Officers Research Association of California opposes the law, saying “to fully expunge a felon’s record in exchange for this work is not warranted, is dangerous to the public and fails to recognize the impact to the victims of the inmate’s crimes.”

#AB2147 heads to the Governor. 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,” said Assemblymember Eloise Reyes. “Those that have served on the fire lines deserve a second chance.”