While the bill's language so far only includes legislative intent, the state's largest firefighter union has come out in opposition to the measure, saying lawbreakers don't meet the high standards that the career demands. [...]
In 2018, there were about 3,700 inmates working at fire camps, including about 2,600 who were fire-line qualified, accounting for more than 20 percent of the roughly 17,000 individuals assigned to the fires in peak season, according to prison and California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection records.
The compensation averages only about $2 a day (plus an additional $1 per hour when they're fighting an active fire), but among those in lockup it's a coveted position. It pays more than other inmate jobs, knocks time off sentences and provides participants with a sense of purpose important for rehabilitation, supporters say.
The program has been estimated to save the state $100 million annually. [...]
While inmate hand crews help fight wildland fires, "they are not firefighters," said Wills, the firefighter union spokesman. [...] Wills said there's no worker supply problem in California -- if firefighters are exhausted on the front lines, it's because there aren't enough open positions.
"We have hundreds of men and women who are patiently going through the process of getting the education, taking the tests, doing everything they need to do to become firefighters," he said. "There's no shortage of firefighter candidates."
So let me see if I get this straight:
- These people aren't qualified to be firefighters;
- There's no shortage of firefighters;
- There are plenty of better-qualified people who do want to be firefighters;
- 20% of CA's front-line forestry firefighters are slaves, because reasons.
Am I missing anything?