By Don Chaddock, InsideCDCR editor
Video by Jeff Baur, CDCR TV Specialist
TV news viewers catching a glimpse of a CALFIRE firefighter, or inmate firefighters, on the screen are probably focused on the action. For hundreds of inmates, they’re focused on the outfits.
See the YouTube video report:
(Editor’s note: Some websites may not be accessible from a CDCR computer.)
Or view the video here: mms://FDCMEDIA/OPEC/2014/PIA FIREFIGHTER NOMEX.wmv
“The immediate feedback is when you see it on TV,” said an inmate who works with fabrics in the California Prison Industry Authority (CALPIA) job training program. Program participants create the firefighting suits worn by CALFIRE and inmate firefighters.
“We’re making the CALFIRE fire suits they wear on the front lines for fire. We make yellow for the free staff civilians and orange for the inmate firefighter,” the inmate said. “It gives me a good feeling to know I’m giving back. I’m not only helping my family, my own friends, but other people I don’t know.”
CALPIA is a self-supporting entity and through the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, provides inmates with valuable job skills they can put to use when they are reintroduced back into society.
Another inmate said it’s about doing something different with their lives.
“I like knowing we’re doing positive things for somebody else,” another inmate said.
Not only are the inmates learning job skills, they are gaining self-confidence, according to those involved in CALPIA.
“This is probably one of the best changing points for all the individuals in here,” another inmate said.
The inmates create the full suit.
“Here in the shop we do everything from cut the material … to everything, the entire suit, jacket and pants,” the inmate said.
Another said the work is important.
“We’re making a garment that helps … save lives,” the inmate said.
“I know that what I’m doing is very important and I take a lot of pride in that,” said another. “It’s preparing me to know I can do a job all day out there.”
Michele Kane, Chief of External Affairs for CALPIA, agreed the inmates take pride in their work.
“We have eight prisons that produce fabric,” she said.
The prisons are Centinela State Prison (CEN), California Institution for Women (CIW), California Correctional Institution (CCI), California Men’s Colony (CMC), Correctional Training Facility (CTF), Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF), Sierra Conservations Center (SCC) and Mule Creek State Prison (MCSP).
“CALPIA offenders make flags, firefighting gear, offender clothing, fluorescent safety shirts for Cal Trans and several other items,” she said.
CALPIA workers make approximately 5,000 sets of firefighting gear each year. Roughly 1,200 offenders work in fabric.
What is CALPIA?
CALPIA provides training and productive work assignments for approximately 8,000 offenders in California. CALPIA receives all of its revenue from the sale of the products it manufactures.
The recidivism rate among CALPIA’s programs is 26-38 percent lower than the general prison population, a success attributed to the job skills and industry certifications obtained by participating in CALPIA, according to officials with the program.
Learn more about CALPIA at https://pia.ca.gov/.