On July 31, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation tweeted about the thousands of inmates who were fighting the state's historic wildfires. The tweet received over 1,000 comments, with many people expressing shock and outrage at the concept of using prisoners to fight fires.
News reports soon followed, with publications including The Washington Post, Newsweek, USA Today, and others covering the topic. While this mainstream discussion shed light on legitimate concerns related to California's decades-old practice of employing inmates, who have volunteered for the job, as wildland firefighters, it also included misconceptions about the program, according to a senior official at CAL FIRE.
"I think people look at these inmates and think back to the early 1900s where you had chain gangs and they were digging trenches, the kind of stuff you see in movies," she told me for an article appearing in the September/October issue of NFPA Journal. "I think that’s a misconception. I think people don’t understand what these inmates are actually doing."
Read the full story, "Cellblock to fireline," and in the comments section, tell us what you think of the practice of California—and other states around the country—employing inmates as wildland firefighters.