Utilizing inmates in camps will ease L.A.County’s jail population and improve prospects for inmate rehabilitation
LOS ANGELES – The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) and the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors finalized a contract Tuesday that allows the county to house more than 500 jail inmates in CDCR firefighting camps.
“This agreement is a great example of the state working with counties to protect public safety,” CDCR Secretary Jeff Beard said. “This partnership will continue to allow us to provide fire protection during what has been one of the most destructive fire seasons in state history while at the same time rehabilitating lower level offenders.”
The contract allows Los Angeles County to ease its jail population and ensures enough able-bodied inmates are available to help with fire suppression and in other emergencies, such as floods and earthquakes. Only low-level offenders may participate in such programs. Under the law, offenders convicted after October 1, 2011 of non-serious, non-violent, and non-sex crimes stay in county jail to serve their sentence. The low-level inmates that will be housed in the camps will be trained to work with state firefighters.
The $27-million, three-year deal will send 528 county inmates serving long-term sentences to five fire camps throughout the county. The camps are jointly operated with the state prison system and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention (CALFIRE). This cost covers housing/supervision costs by CDCR as well as the inmate training costs by CAL FIRE.
CDCR jointly manages 39 adult and juvenile camps with CAL FIRE and five adult camps with the Los Angeles County Fire Department. Approximately 3,800 offenders currently participate in the Conservation Camps Program. In an average year, the fire crews provide more than 2.5 million hours of emergency response work and save the state more than $100 million annually. The crews are available year-round, and have helped to contain and mitigate all of California’s major disasters since 1946, including wildfires, floods, heavy snows, search and rescue operations, and earthquakes.