You have seen them working in your neighborhoods, at City Hall, parks and around the many city properties; they the guys in the bright orange jumpsuits, known as con-crews, CDF hand crews, or just maybe just prison workers.
Dixon Patch received a series of concerns about the safety of these workers, one commenter stating, “Dixon has enough tweakers and felons' just living here, I really don't want any others to be in our town limited or otherwise.”
So, to shine some light on the benefits of their program, here’s the scoop.
They are called hand crews, working as one of the 196 CAL-FIRE Conservation Camps, operated in conjunction with the CA Dept. of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR).
Annually, more than 4,300 statewide inmates respond to all types of emergencies including wildfires, floods, search and rescue, performing more than 2.5 million hours of emergency response work each year.
When not assigned to emergency response or prefire project work, crews conduct labor-intensive project work on public lands, in addition to the critical hazard fuels reduction projects for the State.
Fire crew projects include repair and maintenance of levies for flood prevention; maintenance of local, state, and federal park infrastructures; clearing debris from streams; removing roadside litter; constructing hiking trails; and providing many other important community services.
City Manager Jim Lindley explained that because Dixon is considered a rural area, we are lucky to have to opportunity for the crews to come in at almost no cost.
“These crew are a tremendous money saver for the City," he said, "they clean up City landscaping without having to carry the cost onto taxpayers.”
He assures that the program is safe, and that inmates in the program have been screened profusely.
According to the CDCR, adult inmates assigned to the camps are carefully screened and medically cleared, only minimum custody inmates may participate in the Conservation Camps Program.
To be eligible, they must be physically fit and have no history of violent crimes, as defined by the California Penal Code.
So what's the reward for hard manual labor, rather than sitting in a prison cell? While the average sentence for an adult inmate selected for camp is less than two years, the average time they will spend in camp is eight months.
In an average year, the Conservation Camp Program saves California tax-payers more than $80 million annually, providing about three million person hours in firefighting and other emergencies, and seven million person hours in community service project work.
Community Service Projects, like the landscaping they preform in Dixon, results in millions-of-dollars in wage cost savings at the local level, as inmates earn approximately $1.45 - $3.90 per day for projects.
The annual State budget for each camp is $2.35 million, including both agencies’ (CAL-FIRE & CDCR) payroll and operating costs.
Interesting fact about their transportation, CAL FIRE’s Crew Carrying Vehicle, or CCV, is designed to transport a 17-person fire crew from a conservation camp or fire center to a community project or an emergency incident.
The CCV has ample storage space for all the equipment needed by the crews. In addition to fire tools, sleeping bags, and personal protective equipment, the CCV carries rations, water and everything needed to be self-sufficient for at least 48 hours.