This year California saw its largest fire in state history, and more than 2,000 state prisoners volunteered to fight the flames. Paid just $1 an hour, the state encourages low-level prisoners to risk their lives and serve alongside professional firefighters. But once inmates leave prison, they often can’t work as firefighters because of their criminal records.
Despite their frontline experience, most counties in California require firefighters to become licensed emergency medical technician (EMTs) — and that credential is often denied to anyone with a criminal record.
Nearly 4,000 of California’s firefighters are state inmates, carefully selected to participate in the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation CAL FIRE program. At least three inmates have died fighting these fires.
It’s simply wrong to deny these men and women the ability to become firefighters after they have served their time. A steady job is one of the best ways to prevent re-offending. Restoring the right to earn an honest living is crucial for ex-offenders to regain a sense of hope and a new chance at redemption.
Since 2015, at least 16 states that have already eased or eliminated licensing barriers for Americans with criminal records. Sign our petition asking California to join them and make it easier for formerly incarcerated people to become firefighters and EMTs after serving their time.