Sacramento – As California residents along the coasts and Central Valley brace for the threat of flood and other damage brought by the record amount of rain this season, they can count on hundreds of inmate and juvenile ward volunteers to be there — filling sandbags, fixing eroding levees and providing public service.
Dressed in bright orange vests and jackets with words such as “Prisoner,” “CDC Inmate” and “CDCR Inmate” stenciled on them, the inmates and juveniles work under the direction of CDCR staff and California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection staff reinforcing levees, watching for levee breaches, helping evacuate, and clearing debris from streams.
Since December 2005, both adult inmate and juvenile ward crews have worked more than 30,000 hours throughout state after being called by first-responders to emergency situations.
“These inmates and juvenile wards continue to stand at the ready, to respond at the direction of local and state emergency operations so that lives can be saved – and property protected in the event of a flood stage emergency or catastrophic levee or stream bed overflow or break,” said CDCR Secretary (A) Jeanne S. Woodford.
“The commitment and willingness of the incarcerated to do the right thing – is very much part of their rehabilitative path,” Woodford said. “When they return home to their communities after serving their sentences, they do so with the knowledge that they made a difference in a time when society needed them most.”
During the recent rain storms, more than 168 adult inmates from three camps throughout the state, and 30 juvenile wards from Pine Grove Conservation Camp have been staged at Stockton Fairgrounds so they can be quickly dispatched to trouble spots along Central California waterways and creeks where homes, property, and residents are at risk of flooding with each passing rain.
The CDCR crews will remain there, until further notice, to assist local and state emergency crews in providing critical first-response assistance.
Since 1946 inmates and juveniles on public service crews and from nearly 40 California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Conservation Camps have contributed hundreds of millions of public service hours – resulting in both the savings of lives and property. In an average year, Conservation Camps Program inmates provide eight million hours in project work and two million hours in firefighting and other emergency services, saving California taxpayers more than $80 million annually.
CDCR’s Conservation Camps Program provides the State of California’s cooperative agencies with an able-bodied, trained workforce for fire suppression and other emergencies such as floods and earthquakes. Fire and public service crews also work on conservation projects on public lands and provide labor on local community service projects.