Wall City Volume 2 Issue 2: Fighting Fire While Doing Time
By San Quentin News Contributer
The inmate firefighters are trained to the same standards as many urban fire- fighters. In fact, Mota’s five-woman crew handled all kinds of emergency calls, including many in Madera.
“We would respond to calls in the community. People knew if they saw a fire truck with all women, it was prob- ably us ‘fire girls,’” said Mota. “It felt good. I was doing good and helping the community, and everyone we worked with inside and outside of the prison recognized that.”
But not when it comes to hiring these people when they are released. Criminal justice reform advocates also raise questions about whether inmate fire- fighters are compensated appropriately or whether the CDCR firefighting pro- gram is another form of forced labor. In a recent New York Times article, Angela Hanks, director of the Center for Post- secondary and Economic Success at the Center for Law and Social Policy in Washington, said that inmate firefighters should be paid “a fair wage,” especially because it is such a dangerous job. At least six inmates have died while fire- fighting since 1983.
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