True Reform?

I just did a Google search to see when fire season is in California. What I learned from this website is that it is easier to say when fire season isn’t. The answer to that is May. The rest of the year is pretty much the danger zone. That’s rather sobering.

Fire seasons have gotten longer and longer and and have become progressively more devastating over the years, due to global warming. With increasing droughts, increasing heat, and increasing winds, we’ve got a recipe going on that makes for a heaping helping of flame and destruction. Not good.

And fighting fires isn’t for sissies. Anyone who does so is putting his or her life at risk. It’s a heroic sacrifice.

Sadly, there seem to be fewer and fewer heroes in this world. Because of this, we’ve had to rely on a population that already tends to be stuck with the dirty jobs: inmates. But according to this article, there are fewer inmates to draw upon because there has been a reduction in low-level offenders being housed in the prisons. And now, due to the pandemic, a lot of prisoners have been released early, reducing the pool of potential firefighters even further.

So Gavin Newsom, the Governor of California, recently signed California bill AB2147. Basically, it gives some prison firefighters the opportunity to have their records expunged after they’ve served their sentences. This means, for the first time, they’ll be able to apply for any of 200 jobs that require a state license, including, of course, firefighters. And they’ll certainly be able to say they have experience.

This bill won’t apply to people who commit murder, kidnapping, rape, arson or any felony that’s punishable by life imprisonment or death. That makes sense to me. But I have mixed emotions about this entire endeavor.

On the one hand, it seems as though, for the first time, someone has created a pathway to actual reform for prisoners. We all know that once you’re convicted, it’s nearly impossible to get a decent job. In my opinion, that leaves no other opportunity for survival than crime. Now there will be opportunities. I think this is fantastic.

On the other hand, let’s face it. California isn’t doing this out of the goodness of its heart. They’re desperate for firefighters. And their desperation is only bound to get worse. So, plain and simple, they need these guys to want to put their lives at risk. And they’ll do it. And many will die in the attempt.

But I honesty don’t see any other options. I just hope they don’t start arresting more people for petty b.s., simply to feed them into that firefighting meat grinder. That would be really bad.

Bad, but conceivable. So, yeah, I’m worried that this bill could backfire. (Sorry. Had to.)

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