OROVILLE, Calif. – Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a new bill while he toured the North Complex damage Friday that will accelerate the process for expunging the felony records of formerly incarcerated volunteer firefighters.
For decades, thousands of inmate firefighters have battled wildfires across the state, working alongside professional firefighters in the scorching heat and smoke, NBC reports.
The bill allows nonviolent offenders who have fought fires as members of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s fire camps to have their records expunged, paving the way for individuals leaving fire camps to seek employment and training.
“This legislation rights a historic wrong and recognizes the sacrifice of thousands of incarcerated people who have helped battle wildfires in our state, and I would like to thank the Legislature for passing this bill,” said Newsom.
Despite their experience and qualifications, many formerly incarcerated firefighters struggle to obtain licenses and employment due to their criminal records, Newsom said in a news release. Under AB 2147, formerly incarcerated individuals can file a petition in county court to expunge their records and waive parole time, which will open career pathways in emergency response and a variety of other disciplines.
When Newsom visited Berry Creek on Friday, he primarily focused on climate change.
CA’s inmate firefighter program is decades-old and has long needed reform.
Inmates who have stood on the frontlines, battling historic fires should not be denied the right to later become a professional firefighter.
— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) September 11, 2020