Two CDCR inmates attempting to extinguish flames in the midsts of a California wildfire.
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Licensing Requirements Prevent CDCR Firefighters From Jobs

Many firefighting departments require an EMT license before hiring. Many ex-CDCR firefighters are denied the EMT license because they have a felony record.

Many cities and county firefighting jobs require an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) License before hiring. The licenses provide better pay grade tickets.

Many of California’s volunteer firefighters, once out of prison, cannot get the EMT license. This is simply because they have a felony record.

Why California’s CDCR Inmates Choose To Fight the State’s Deadly Wildfires

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) spends thousands of dollars to train the inmates. They give them the required experience in firefighting.

Some Firefighting Departments Hire CDCR Firefighters

Some CDCR firefighters get employment after they are released that don’t require EMT licenses. These include the U.S Forest Service and CalFire.

According to Stanton Florea, The U.S Forest Service spokesperson, the CDCR firefighters are exceptional.  According to him, the inmates have mastered the art of wildland firefighting during their time in prison.

California Exploits Prisoners Sent to Fight Wildfires for $2 a Day

Florea, however, did not disclose the number of ex-convicts working in the Forest Service. He said that the number was small. Florea termed firefighting jobs as a highly competitive. The inmates, like any other person, have to apply for any vacant posts.

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Many CDCR firefighters feel unappreciated. Their hard work, especially with large fires, go unnoticed. According to Derrick McGruder, a 33-year-old and his crew’s first sawyer, some of them feel underappreciated.

Prado Conservation Camp N0.28 in Chino is McGruder’s station. He adds many of them break their back for CDCR and CalFire. They save a lot of homes.

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EMT License Stands in the Way of Many CDCR Firefighters

In many instances, the EMT license means better pay and more responsibilities. These responsibilities include:

  • Attending to injured or distracted individuals
  • Entering into homes
  • Accessing private properties

Organizations responsible for certifying and licensing are always careful when it comes to issuing EMT licenses. Eloise Reyes, an assemblywoman, introduced AB 2293. The main objective of the bill is to change the rules that allow agencies to deny EMT licenses to inmates having criminal records.

The bill proposes a way applicants could show rehabilitation, such as previous training and employment. The bill was supported by some organizations including the Homeboy Industries and Root & Rebound. The two organizations find jobs for ex-convicts.

Two CDCR inmates attempting to extinguish flames in the midsts of a California wildfire.
Despite experience under their belt, most CDCR inmates will be deemed ineligible for a firefighting license, solely due to their criminal record. While the concern is reasonable, it’s still one of many stigmas ex-convicts face because of people refusing to acknowledge their paid debt to society and rehabilitation behind bars. Image Source: The Sacramento Bee

The bill is also criticized by some organizations. Critics say the bill would restrict the administrators’ discretion. The current law came into place on the 11th of September.

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The law focuses on reporting and gathering data of applicants applying for the EMT license. The data includes those who have been denied the EMT license due to a criminal record. The reason behind the denial is also recorded.

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Abigael Shem
Abigael Shem has eight years of experience in academic, content, research and creative writing, editing and proofreading. Developing any type of content is now an easy task for her. When she's not writing, she enjoys singing, dancing, hiking, traveling and sports, especially football and basketball. Abigael currently writes news for prison loved ones on Prison Rideshare Network.