Governor Jerry Brown’s policies reducing the number of inmates in the state have not affected the number of firefighters fighting fires.
40% of California’s firefighting population, which numbers over 100,000, normally comes from prison and participates in fire camps. Cal Fire has been concerned that the state’s realignment program, as well as Proposition 47, would cripple its efforts.
But Bill Sessa of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation told Capital Public Radio, “…all of the predictions up to now of having a reduced prison inmate population to work the fires have kind of fallen through– because even though we have fewer inmates than we used to have, we still have enough.”
200 state prison inmates are participating in fire camps this week, out of a total of almost 4,000 California inmates.
Cal Fire explains, “CAL FIRE is currently authorized to operate 39 Conservation Camps statewide that house nearly 4,300 inmates and wards. These camps are operated in conjunction with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). Through these cooperative efforts CAL FIRE is authorized to operate 196 fire crews year-round.”
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabiliation (CDCR) says on its website: “CDCR is responsible for the selection, supervision, care and discipline of the inmates. CALFIRE maintains the camp, supervises the work of the inmate fire crews, and is responsible for inmate custody while on daily grade projects. CDCR staff often accompany inmate fire crews on out-of-county assignments, or on local assignments located near residential areas. Inmates are directly supervised 24 hours per day while on work projects and while assigned to emergencies.”