California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a new bill on Friday (Sep. 11) that will allow inmates to become firefighters after they are released from prison. He took to Twitter to share the news.
“CA’s inmate firefighter program is decades-old and has long needed reform,” Gov. Newsom tweeted. “Inmates who have stood on the frontlines, battling historic fires should not be denied the right to later become a professional firefighter. Today, I signed #AB2147 that will fix that.”
According to NBC News, the new law will speed up the process of expunging the felony records of formerly incarcerated volunteer firefighters. It will now be easier for former inmates to obtain an emergency medical technician certification — which is the first step in most cities and states towards becoming a firefighter.
For years, those who were incarcerated have worked alongside professional firefighters to fight the wildfires in California. Even though the inmates risked their lives for $1 an hour, they were not allowed to use their skills to begin a career in the field after they were released from prison.
“I think that after seeing all these young men and women stand side by side with our other fire crews and knowing that they had no hope of entering that profession, I knew that it was wrong and that we needed to do something about it,” Assemblymember Eloise Reyes, the author of the bill, said.
“I am definitely pleased that the bill passed and I think that it is a great step in the right direction,” said Brandon Smith, executive director of the Forestry and Fire Recruitment Program. Smith was a former inmate who served as a firefighter. The Forestry and Fire Recruitment Program is a non-profit that helps former inmates obtain fire-related employment after they are released from prison.
According to the outlet, there are about 37,000 incarcerated people working in the inmate firefighting program. About 2,600 of those people are qualified to work fire lines.
Check out Gov. Newsom’s tweet below.