Most people are aware that California agriculture provides a long list of food and textiles we use on a daily basis. But you usually don’t think of trees as having a place on that list. And you probably wouldn’t think about prison inmates as tenders of that crop on that list. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s (CDCR) Conservation Camp Program has provided crews vital to keeping our forests alive, and yet very few people know about the work they do. More importantly, these programs REALLY HELP divert people from going back to prison, once they are released, as they learn valuable skills including forestry management and what benefits California forests get from this program.
For more than 60 years, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s Conservation Camp Program provides California with an able bodied, well-trained, and well equipped workforce for fire suppression and other activities. CDCR inmates risk their lives to fight wildfires while taking advantage of positive rehabilitation programs. The program plays an integral role in California’s statewide wildfire response.
The program has 42 adult and two Division of Juvenile Justice conservation camps statewide. CDCR jointly manages 37 adult and juvenile camps with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE). Five adult camps in southern California are jointly managed with the Los Angeles County Fire Department.
The cooperative nature of the partnership makes the CDCR program a success at all levels. The crews perform a vital public service that benefits Californians as well as the state, federal, county and local government agencies. More than 4,400 inmates are in the program. Approximately 200 crews log an average of more than three million work hours a year fighting wildfires and responding to floods, earthquakes, and search and rescue missions.
California Heartland’s John Lobertini visits the CDCR Growlersburg camp at Georgetown in El Dorado County. There he meets up with inmate fire fighters in training, learn what they do to preserve and tend to California forests, as well as the pride they take in using cleared lumber to make furniture for our parks and schools. It’s a story of mending minds, lives and California’s precious resources.
CA Dept. of Corrections and Rehabilitation Conservation Camp Program Fact Sheet
More Than 2,400 CDCR Staff and Inmate Firefighters
Deployed to Battle Wildfires Statewide. June 23, 2008.
Explore the rest of Episode 903