Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer recently slammed the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) for allowing violent felons to serve in minimum security firefighting crews, which also enables them to reduce their prison sentences by up to 60 percent.
“Violent felons are sent to state prison because they have committed such heinous crimes they must be taken out of our communities,” Spitzer said in a statement. “It is unconscionable that the very entity responsible for housing dangerous felons continues to allow these same violent felons back into our communities and expect them to miraculously be less dangerous because they are dressed in firefighting gear instead of a prison uniform. It doesn’t work that way.”
He continued, “This is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to shorten the sentences of dangerous criminals and get them out of prison and back on the streets as quickly as possible. Our communities – and our victims – deserve better.”
The major lack of restrictions by CDCR means that violent felons who have been convicted of carjacking, armed robbery, weapons and firearm offenses, and attempted murder can serve as firefighters. These same prisoners also enjoy “good time” credits from CDCR for their firefighting, which typically results in most inmates only serving a third of their sentence.
Recently, an inmate firefighter that was part of a crew assigned to battling a brush fire allegedly stole a fire engine. His joy ride left half a block of destruction when driving through nearby businesses, and into another vehicle before crashing. He also attempted carjacking another car before his capture. The inmate was serving 10 years in prison after being convicted of six felonies, including one for carjacking.
DA Spitzer also criticized the CDCR’s lack of screening that leads to violent felons like Horvath being allowed to serve in the minimum security fire crews which puts the public at a great risk. Currently only arsonists, sex offenders, prisoners with a history of escape with force or violence, and life sentence prisoners are prohibited from serving in a fire camp.