By OPEC staff

Riverside County sent 20 jail inmates to CDCR’s California Correctional Center on Wednesday for training to fight forest fires. It’s the first county to take advantage of a section of the AB 109, Public Safety Realignment Act, that allows counties to contract with CDCR to fill inmate positions in the fire camp program.

Under the arrangement, the county pays $46.19 a day per inmate.  Realignment funds controlled by the local Community Corrections Partnership have been set aside to fund the program, according to an article in the Riverside Press Enterprise.

Under Realignment, which went into effect October 2011, individuals convicted of non-serious, non-violent and non-sexual crimes serve their sentences in county jails rather than state prisons.  Anticipating that the number of prison inmates eligible for fire camps would gradually decline, the State provided for counties to contract for the spaces.

Riverside County anticipates sending additional inmates every two weeks until reaching the 200-inmate contract limit. In a press release, the Sheriff’s Department said qualification criteria for the inmates include the inmate’s length of stay, as well as the physical ability to perform the functions required at the fire camps.

The county benefits by freeing up jail beds, and the inmates benefit by learning new skills and having a productive outlet for their energy while incarcerated.

CDCR has agreed to place the trained county inmates in Riverside County fire camps when possible.  Fire camp inmates also help during floods and perform community service work.

Editor’s note: This article originally reported the wrong institution for the inmates’ training.