California’s governor passed a bill Friday that will give prisoners battling the state’s massive wildfires a chance to have their records expunged after serving their sentences. They will also receive help have a firefighting career after release. “California inmate firefighter program is decades-old and has long needed reform,” Newsom said on Twitter Friday. “Inmates who have stood on the front lines, battling historic fires should not be denied the right to later become a professional firefighter.” The California bill AB2147 excludes those convicted of certain crimes, including murder, kidnapping, rape, arson or any felony punishable by death or life imprisonment. The new law may create a new incentive, by allowing former inmate firefighters, after their release, to ask a judge to withdraw their plea of guilty.
The judge could opt to then dismiss the accusations. The district attorneys association had argued against the bill, saying that expungement of criminal records should be limited to lower-level offenders. California uses hundreds of inmates each year to bolster its crews that fight wildfires. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) operates 43 conservation camps, or fire camps, throughout the state. The Conservation Camp Program supports state, local and federal government agencies as they respond to emergencies such as fires, floods and other natural or man-made disasters.