RIVERSIDE – The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) and the Riverside County Board of Supervisors finalized a first-of-its-kind contract Tuesday that allows the County Sheriff to utilize jail inmates in the state’s fire camps.
“This historic agreement is another great example of the state working with counties to protect public safety,” CDCR Secretary Jeff Beard said. “This partnership will allow us to provide fire protection during what may promise to be a very busy fire season while at the same time rehabilitating lower level offenders.”
The contract allows Riverside County to ease its jail population and ensures enough able-bodied inmates are available to help with fire suppression and in other emergencies, such as floods and earthquakes. Because only low-level offenders may participate in such programs, the state’s Conservation Camps population is anticipated to decline since the implementation of Public Safety Realignment (Assembly Bill 109). Under the law, offenders convicted after October 1, 2011 of non-serious, non-violent, and non-sex crimes stay in county jail to serve their sentence.
The five-year contract stipulates the county will pay the state $46.19 per inmate per day which covers housing/supervision costs by CDCR as well as training costs for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention (CAL FIRE).
CDCR jointly manages 39 adult and juvenile camps with CAL FIRE and five adult camps with the Los Angeles County Fire Department. Approximately 3,800 offenders currently participate in the Conservation Camps Program. In an average year, the fire crews provide more than 2.5 million hours of emergency response work and save the state more than $80 million annually. The crews are available year-round, and have helped to contain and mitigate all of California’s major disasters since 1946, including wildfires, floods, heavy snows, search and rescue operations, and earthquakes.