“Roughly 1,500 currently incarcerated people have stepped up in the last 24 hours to combat the fires as part of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s (CDCR) volunteer firefighting program, called the Conservation Camp Program. For them, the dangers can prove disastrous—even deadly.
More than 1,000 inmate firefighters required hospital care between June 2013 and August 2018, according to data obtained by TIME through FOIA requests. They are more than four times as likely, per capita, to incur object-induced injuries, such as cuts, bruises, dislocations and fractures, compared with professional firefighters working on the same fires. Inmates were also more than eight times as likely to be injured after inhaling smoke and particulates compared with other firefighters.”
Root & Rebound Executive Director Katherine Katcher is quoted “If you’re good enough to fight fires while you’re inside, you should be good enough to fight fires when you’re outside,” she says. “They’re doing the life-saving work, they’re earning the skills, and when they get out, they can’t do those jobs.”
By ABBY VESOULIS in TIME
November 17, 2018
Root & Rebound ED Katherine Katcher was recently interviewed by Brent Bambury for Day 6 on CBC radio for a segment about the incarcerated people currently fighting wildfires in California and their prospects for becoming career firefighters once they are released.
"We have a state that is set up to rely on this kind of labour and be okay and comfortable using it when people are inside," Katherine told Day 6.
"It leads to people who've been serving their sentences and giving their lives to the state of California. It leaves them homeless and jobless when they get out.”
Click the link below to hear the piece:
About 1,500 inmates in California prisons are helping the state fight wildfires, including the Camp Fire, for several dollars a day. Yet after inmates with firefighting experience are released, doors at fire departments are often closed.
Root & Rebound Executive Director Katherine Katcher is quoted extensively. “Our state has the opportunity to improve its laws to do better,” she said. “It’s not just about saying a program is rehabilitative. That’s just a word. Do the right thing.”
By Mihir Zaveri
"The environment is coercive," said Katherine Katcher, founder and executive director of California-based non-profit Root & Rebound, which helps formerly incarcerated individuals re-enter society. "People welcome any opportunity to get out earlier, to get back to their families, back to their lives and make money."
Katcher's non-profit, in partnership with 50 additional criminal justice reform organizations, spent the past year pushing for the passage of three bills in the California legislature. A weakened version of the bill prohibiting the Department of Consumer Affairs from denying or revoking licenses unless a criminal conviction is directly related to the job passed in September.
The third bill, specifically targeting the prohibitive EMT licensing system necessary to become a firefighter, was voted down in favor of collecting more data on the number of ex-offenders denied certification every year.
Despite the outcome, Katcher said advocates will continue fighting. "This isn't a free pass, no one is advocating for a free-for-all," she said. "We're saying there should be a fair and accurate consideration of someone's record and its relation to their ability to do the job."
By: Mikayla Bean