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Giving Compass' Take:
• This article from The Marshall Project shares stories from several people about the former prisoners who have been battling California’s wildfires this summer.
• What can we learn from these stories? What other policy reforms can help those recently let out of prisons?
• Here's an article on how you can respond to the current California wildfires.
California firefighters have been battling unprecedented blazes and staffing shortages this wildfire season. Before the pandemic, thousands of the state’s wildfire crews came from state prisons—incarcerated people can make around $1 an hour containing fires, clearing brush, and doing other dangerous labor. But since COVID, many incarcerated firefighters have been released early.
“When people are in need, they don’t give a shit where you’re from or what your history is.”
That shortage has called attention to the state’s reliance on prison labor to fight fires, and to a longstanding critique of the program: how hard it is for those same people to become professional firefighters once they’re free. Jobs in city fire departments often require a stringent background check. Getting hired in wildland firefighting, while not off-limits, is a challenge for people navigating re-entry on top of probation or parole. Recent efforts by the state and by groups like the Forestry and Fire Recruitment Program, created by formerly incarcerated firefighters, are working to change that. This week, the state assembly passed a bill making it easier for some people who served on prison fire crews to clear their record and get an emergency medical technician license; the proposal is now awaiting the governor’s signature.
Read the full article about prisoners fighting California's wildfires by Christie Thompson at The Marshall Project.