California Governor Gavin Newsom on Friday signed a bill recognizing the role of jail and prison firefighting crews in the state’s ongoing battle against wildfires and facilitating access to future employment in the public sector for people who have served on those crews.
The state of California, as well as several of its counties, relies on incarcerated men and women to assist with fire containment efforts. According to the text of Assembly Bill 2147, an estimated 3,700 people are currently working throughout the state as part of the California Conservation Camp Program. Participation in the Conservation Camp Program is voluntary and subject to restrictions related to a person’s criminal history and compliance with prison regulations. Conservation Camp Program participants are paid a nominal wage.
Pursuant to the new law, upon completion of their jail or prison sentence, formerly incarcerated firefighters may petition a court to have their criminal records expunged. The law provides that if an individual’s petition is granted, and subject to certain exceptions, he or she “shall thereafter be released from all penalties and disabilities resulting from the offense of which [he or she] has been convicted.” Individuals who receive expungement relief may pursue employment with nearly any state or local agency without disclosing the expunged conviction. Disclosure may still be required of an applicant seeking work as a teacher, peace officer, public official, or contractor with the California State Lottery Commission.
In a press release issued Friday, Governor Newsom commended the new law, saying it “rights a historic wrong and recognizes the sacrifice of thousands of incarcerated people who have helped battle wildfires in [California].”