The passage last week of Proposition 47 by voters in California may have the unintended consequence of depleting the pool of inmates who for decades have served on fire crews in the state, reports the Los Angeles Times. The initiative reduces penalties for drug possession and other nonviolent crimes — something that could deplete the pool of jail inmates who qualify for fire duty.
Fire crews made up of nonviolent state prisoners have long been part of the bulwark that protects California during fire season. About 4,000 offenders participate in crews statewide, and officials estimate that they save California about $80 million in firefighting costs annually. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection had estimated that prison system realignment, through which thousands of inmates were transferred from state prisons to local jails, was already expected to cut the number of state-prison fire crews by more than a third.