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6 ex-prisoners graduate from FF training camp for former inmates

Four former prisoners who completed the 18-month program have been hired as firefighters, per the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation


By Laura French

VENTURA COUNTY, Calif. — A firefighter training camp for ex-prisoners in California recently graduated its first class of trainees, four of whom have now been hired as firefighters, according to corrections officials.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection collaborated to provide the formerly incarcerated participants with six months of basic training for firefighter certification, followed by 12 months of training as hand crew, according to the Ventura County Star.

Department of Corrections Spokesman Aaron Francis said 14 ex-inmates completed the six-month program, and six went on to complete the full 18-month program. The nonprofit Anti-Recidivism Coalition also joined the program to provide participants with life skills and a path to rejoining society.

Francis said several of the graduates have gotten jobs and four of the six who completed the full program have been hired as firefighters. The remaining two will stay at the training camp for another six months and continue to work on hand crews.

Corrections department Secretary Ralph Diaz said during a virtual meeting in April that the graduates have “made history” and should feel proud of themselves.

The training took place at Ventura Training Center, at a site where in-custody inmates previously did work assisting CAL FIRE. The program received backlash and opposition by local residents when it was first proposed, but managed to receive $26.6 million in funding from the state and opened in 2018.

The former inmates were strictly regulated during training and risked expulsion for violating rules, officials said. Those convicted of arson or sex crimes, or who had any record of violence or escape attempts during their incarceration, were ineligible for the program.