- California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill on Friday that allows formerly incarcerated firefighters to have their nonviolent criminal records expunged.
- Over 1,200 incarcerated people are currently serving as firefighters in California, paid a couple of dollars per day for their service.
- “This legislation rights a historic wrong and recognizes the sacrifice of thousands of incarcerated people who have helped battle wildfires in our state,” Newsom said in a statement.
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California is making it easier for formerly incarcerated firefighters to go professional, with a new law enabling nonviolent offenders to have their criminal records expunged.
For decades, liberal California has relied on its massive prison population to fight wildfires. Detained men and women are trained on how to fight blazes, sleeping in camps, and earning a couple of dollars a day. But until now they were largely unable to put that experience to use once free.
In a statement on Friday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced he was signing a bill, AB 2147, to fix that.
“This legislation rights a historic wrong and recognizes the sacrifice of thousands of incarcerated people who have helped battle wildfires in our state,” Newsom said.
—Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) September 11, 2020
Many fire departments reject candidates with a troubled legal past. Under AB 2147, formerly incarcerated people can petition a county court to have that past excised.
“I am thrilled we have this law on the books,” Romarilyn Ralston, a formerly incarcerated woman who fought fires while an inmate, told Business Insider. “It is long overdue.”
“Signing AB 2147 into law is about giving second chances. To correct is to right a wrong; to rehabilitate is to restore,” Assemblymember Gomez Reyes, the bill’s author, said in a statement. “Rehabilitation without strategies to ensure the formerly incarcerated have a career is a pathway to recidivism.”
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