Sitting in a cloud of wildfire smoke at the site of the massive North Complex fire in Butte County, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a law Friday that dramatically expands opportunities for members of inmate firefighting crews to be hired as professional firefighters after their release from prison.
Former prisoners who come out of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation fire training program can now petition a judge to have their records more quickly expunged — setting aside their convictions — a process that would allow them to obtain EMT certification and other licenses required for employment at many municipal fire agencies in California.
Newsom said the new law — Assembly Bill 2147 — will give the more than 1,000 prisoners who are currently fighting fires “opportunity and hope” of a long-term, sustainable firefighting career after their release.
“This bill that I'm about to sign will give those prisoners hope of actually getting a job in the profession that they've been trained (in),” he said, moments before signing the bill against the stark backdrop of charred forest.
The new law only applies to those who have completed the prison firefighting program and excludes anyone convicted of a sex offense or violent felony.