Inmates as firefighters? Why it can never work
There's a reason why we must hold our service accountable to a high standard of excellence and integrity
Editor’s Note:Editor's note: Officials in southeast Georgia are considering a money-saving program that would put inmates in fire stations. No way, says Chief Adam K. Thiel.
This is one of those stories that made me check the date when I first saw it, wondering if it was an April Fool's Day joke?
But of course, it's October...
I've had the opportunity, on a few occasions, to see inmate firefighters work (supervised, of course) at wildland fires.
Without question they: 1) are fully capable of doing that demanding job under extreme conditions; and 2) face many of the same risks as any other firefighters.
I'm also a big fan of our local sheriff's inmate work crews, who (again under law enforcement supervision) perform a range of dirty jobs at an extremely low cost, such as roadway trash pickup, digging out snow-covered fire hydrants, landscaping, painting, etc.
That's not the same, however, as performing the daily response functions of a local fire department.
I'm often asked why fire and EMS departments, career and volunteer, often have such extensive processes for selecting their members.
My answer is simple: we're the only government agency that people actually invite into their homes, with no questions asked, anytime day or night.
That's a sacred trust, and the fundamental reason we must hold our service accountable to a high standard of excellence and integrity.
I can easily recall the times when a parent actually met us in their front yard as we arrived onscene, and without a moment's hesitation handed us their child; without any words, and with every expectation that we would make things better.
Could they (would they) do that with an inmate, even a low-risk inmate?
I find it hard to believe the citizens of any local jurisdiction would allow a proposal like this to advance very far, but I guess we'll see what happens...
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