Georgia Cost-Saving Plan Adds Inmates to Firehouse Staffing

ST MARYS, Ga. (AP) — Officials in southeast Georgia are considering a money-saving program that would put inmates in fire stations. The Florida Times-Union reports (http://bit.ly/nZbutT) that the program would put two inmates in each of three existing firehouses in Camden County.

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Times are tough and many departments, career and volunteer, are having a hard time maintaining even minimum staffing. Is this Georgia plan even worth the risk when considering public image and public relations?

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John as to your question about a vigilante approach to the job, the comment was made I think on page 1 or 2 of posting that if someone had to go down LODD better and inmate that a true brother or something along those lines.

 

I was the first one to point out that GA imates are some of the best trained in the state I know from a brother in law and my mentor in fire service.

I also admit that I am torn on the issue, and have posted that like everything else it will vary by person.

However the LODD comment really set me off, maybe because I am a safety officer, or because I am a FF, or because I am a human being I dont want there to be another LODD in this country. I want to model a program after Polands highly successful one. I personally place the same value on each human life and I posed the question of if its ok to let an inmate FF go down, is it ok to abandon a patient if you learn he/she is what you concider scum?

As to your comment about FNGs in the military and combat arms in particular as the daughter, sister, wife and sister-in-law, of men who have proudly served this country in combat arms MOS for decades I can tell you this. You let the new guy go out with you, you dont go out with the new guy. Meaning that the squad has a regular night out you can bring the FNG to that and see what hes like. But you never accept an invitation to go someplace with the FNG without the rest of your squad.

Now I will finish with this yes to a degree you have to trust the newest FF you work with, however we would all be liars if we said that when working an interior attck (for example) with the FNG of your dept you didnt pay extra attention to things that simply flow between you and other (tested) members of your crew.

 

 

 

You can become a convicted felon for something like bouncing a check on a bank account. 

 If the program is working for the Georgians and they are comfortable with it, then they should continue it.  In my community in Virginia,  it would not work. Everywhere is different.  I asked a few random people I know who are not a part of the local fire service what they thought about the idea and they thought it was just insane. Public Perception. 

 I agree on that there should be more to a new FF coming in than just a background check.  I'm the new guy just coming in  and I'm not going to do anything above and beyond my level of understanding.  If I'm not qualified to do some stuff, then I don't do it.   I don't pretend to be qualified or present that appearance. 

John as to your question about a vigilante approach to the job, the comment was made I think on page 1 or 2 of posting that if someone had to go down LODD better and inmate that a true brother or something along those lines.

 

If you looked, I addressed the LODD issue as well, the question I was replying to and with my follow up, stems from what the motivation is to even ask it and what the individual is trying to imply.

 

You let the new guy go out with you, you dont go out with the new guy.Meaning that the squad has a regular night out you can bring the FNG to that and see what hes like. But you never accept an invitation to go someplace with the FNG without the rest of your squad.

 

No kidding that the new member goes with you/crew, the reality is that there is still a level of trust that must be instilled despite the fact the person may be new or unproven. The example is to contradict the individual saying that to trust a new/rookie FF who is unproven is a dumbass. The issue is that a new/rookie FF who still may be unproven also hasn't shown any reaon as to why they can't be trusted, which is different than viewing convicts with the same approach. It sure seems the said individual is so caught up in this idea that some comments are thus insinuating that these convicts are more trustworthy than someone without a record and to that I disagree.

 

Now I will finish with this yes to a degree you have to trust the newest FF you work with, however we would all be liars if we said that when working an interior attck (for example) with the FNG of your dept you didnt pay extra attention to things that simply flow between you and other (tested) members of your crew.

 

Crew cohesion and functionality is a bit different than trust. If you go to any multiple station/shift fire department you find that there is crew cohesion in most stations where personalities, mindsets, etc compliment and you understand each other. Now any given time there can be a new FF or even a different FF to that station/shift who is an outsider to the crew. The TRUST factor is knowing and expecting that person is going to be able to perform the same duties.

 

The bottom line is that any new FF or even "unproven" should be trusted because they should have the same training, gone through the same testing and so forth as anyone else, despite crew cohesion. There can and has been personality conflicts and disagreements among crewmembers, but that should not be basis for not trusting someone is able to perfrom the job. Just like the military, a crew should trust and expect that any new member is going to be able to perform right away, without having to be "proven". The fact remains that a new FF's very first day they could get that burner and the crew must trust that the person's training is in place to perform the job duties, otherwise they wouldn't be on the floor would they? This can happen before a crew really has a chance to evaluate for "proven" status.

 

 

 

 

Although, by reading these posts, it seems as though this program is better set up than many departments out there. There is/should be physicals in place for the inmates. It sounds like there is training involved and you don't get the "selective" response as some depts. There doesn't seem to be (for this program at least) interior/exterior only FF. And it doesn't sound like it is a "good ol boys" network where FF is in name only.

 

You can become a convicted felon for something like bouncing a check on a bank account.

 

Nobody bounces a check or two and goes to jail, it is through a period of time where something like a conviction and jail time would come in play, which means there is also a period of time that the individual has broken that public trust too.

 

If the program is working for the Georgians and they are comfortable with it, then they should continue it. In my community in Virginia, it would not work.

 

And why wouldn't it? What makes your community different to make such a statement? What if it was your community proposing this?

John, my point can be shared in this story. I was a Capt., we received a call mother fell in shower with an infant. We roll up on scene, I’m in my POV it is cool outside and the mother is running around outside all crazy, the baby is non-responsive, one of my men takes the infant to start an assessment I take the mother off to the side to try and calm her down, I retrieve a blanket out of my truck to cover her. EMS arrives and the decision is made to call Lifeflight.

My men set up the LZ, the Deputy shows and once the baby was gone and I was away from the women my men told me about the baby. Bight marks and cigarette burns. This woman was on bail pending charges of child abuse. My men new what I would have done and had one of the Deputies with them, would this have been justifiable homicide, would I have been convicted felon murder, hell yes.

The point here is we deal with people every day that we know nothing about and yet you are going to judge people willing to put their life’s on the line and stand shoulder to shoulder with you to help us protect the public we serve.

We do not know what they did or why they did it. Where they stealing to help feed their family? Where they just in the wrong spot or was it just a stupid mistake.  These men are not violent criminals, but it is not for me to judge any ones past, only what you do on my scene, under my watch. Everyone will have to answer to a higher power than is here on this earth. Judge not less ye be judged.

I will not send a rookie or new FF into a fire scene without myself or a proven FF having proper safety back up, you have to see how they handle themselves. If you break and run on me in a fire, you just put my life in danger (God help you). If you honestly think the burn building and training is proof a newbie will not run, you are in the wrong field. If you blindly accept everyone you will be let down.

Everyone should be concerned and yes we have had to deal with many of these issues, concerns and problems in this community. The program has been running for just over two years now and none and I mean none of these problems been proven or found to have any merit. Most of the citizens now accept and have a new found respect for this program. We are down to a small group of around 30 out of 33,000 that just will not accept the FD period. The inmates have become a nonissue.

This program was not just done half-ass and the safety of everyone is of upmost importance. The inmates training is 3 – 1 of the paid staff. They train 5 – 6 days a week and run calls 24/7. Anyone is welcome to come see for themselves. We have had officials from GA, FL, CO and TX.

This program gives a community the ability to develop fire services where there was none or limited at a cost savings to the citizens we serve. Develop a rehabilitation program that is proven to work and at no additional cost. Creating jobs in the fire services that where never available before.

The point here is we deal with people every day that we know nothing about and yet you are going to judge people willing to put their life’s on the line and stand shoulder to shoulder with you to help us protect the public we serve

 

Big difference between responding to the public and intervening and those tasked with responding. Yes, we don't know the backgrounds etc of the people we respond to, but that doesn't matter either, there IS a difference when you know and understand the background of those who are responding.

 

Once again, a convict has shown to break that public trust, it doesn't matter what the crime or circumstances, be it to feed a family, wrong spot, wrong time, whatever, the fact remains they are in jail for a reason. There are other means to deal with financial issues than resorting to crime, there is the aspect of knowing who your friends are and so forth. The bottom line is the trust aspect has been broken by a felon.

 

Now, I read the other post about a former felon who helped train etc, etc, but there is a difference on taking a chance on someone AFTER they paid their debt to society and one who is still serving that. If these folks are so upstanding as you tout here, then why are they incarcerated, why shouldn't they be put in police roles then if this is such a cost savings initiative?

 

I will not send a rookie or new FF into a fire scene without myself or a proven FF having proper safety back up, you have to see how they handle themselves. If you break and run on me in a fire, you just put my life in danger (God help you).

 

Which is why any dept that has their stuff together will send new personnel through training so that when they do come to the floor, they know what their role is. They can graduate the academy or training program, walk into a station and know what their role is. It is the job of the training dept and training officers to say that the person is good to go. Once again, there should be that trust issue to expect that new/rookie FF to act accordinly because they are on the job, they have been signed off and deemed ready to do the job by the training officer. Most municipal type depts do have such standards in place, and is a bit different than the "take what you can get" approach that we see with some depts.

 

 

If you honestly think the burn building and training is proof a newbie will not run, you are in the wrong field. If you blindly accept everyone you will be let down.

 

And if you honestly think that one has to be "proven" in your own eyes and can't accept the training officer and division (I'm referring to dept training, not some tech school course or FF cert classes, but dept training) deemed someone ready and capable of the job, then the perhaps you are in the wrong field.

 

The reason you do training and have a training program in place is to address issues and ensure one is ready to do the job. If you don't think that someone can go through training and not be ready for an emergency, then that is something YOU need to address with training or perhaps it is just you with trust issues and this may not be the right field for you.

 

Training addresses those structure fires and goes over dept operations. The days of hiring people off the street and throwing them in a firehouse for OJT are over, especially in a municipal dept. You can have a brand new probie for FDNY, they can walk into the firehouse their first day on the floor, have the tones drop for a structure fire, and they know what to do. Why? Because it is trained on and taught on by the people tasked with ensuring the training. It is the training people with the onus of saying this person is ready. There is and will always be training done, but there is no reason NOT to expect someone will do the job either.

 

 

The difference is that an inmate has proven they violated the public trust, it doesn't matter the circumstances, they still violated it. Whereas anyone else without a criminal record, has not done so. It doesn't mean they aren't capable, nor wouldn't do something in the future, but they also have not violated that public trust. There is a big difference.

 

When you start trying to turn this into a new FF or rookie and trying to examplify the same "trust" issues and then making the statements you did, shows that perhaps it is you with the trust issue. A new rookie FF hasn't committed a crime to violate the public trust as inmates have. Now a new FF coming on the floor will have to intergrate into the crew and dept, but the simple fact remains that there should be that level of trust despite the "provenness". Besides, when you turn things around, that new rookie FF has to also trust the crew and officer they are working with as well......after all, they are also "unproven" to him. That is why there is training.

 

 

There is a difference in a former convicted felon who served their time and has been released and having an employer, dept, etc taking a chance on them and one who is still serving their time. They violated that public trust and should serve out their sentence instead of being placed in a job that revolves around public trust. Yes, there are idiots in the fire service as the examples Jack points out, but let's not forget the huge difference in numbers of those who have violated public trust and those who haven't.

 

The only reason this is even being discussed is that it shows the bean counters and politicians bringing this up are more concerned about money than the public trust. After all, if such a great bunch of guys and if they are so trustworthy to be FF's, why not let them be cops, prison guards, or any other number of public sector jobs. It is called a prison for a reason and people there are there for a reason, and the main reason is because they violated public trust.  

You mean bouncing a check on someone else's bank account, that is called stealing.
Give them a second chance being a police officer, not a firefighter.

I cant and wont speak for Brian, but I do wonder how you , the reading and replying members feel about the convicts that work at the state fire academy, or regional training centers? I do know that while my brother in law was locked up in a federal prison in Ga he was picked up at first for a prison crew then worked his way up. At that time the felons would be stationed at points inside the burn cells/ buildings etc and help when a trainee became disoriented, fell, lost it etc.

 

Would those of you that have the issue of public trust, be ok with the inmates regaining that assistant trainer (extra eyes) type of role. I do know that when the inmate use was minimzed at the state fire academy to a more janitorial role the cost for FF and depts increased. At one point you paid for nothing at the academy, room, books and meals were included. Now you have to pay for your meals, if you want a certian room you pay (which Im ok with).

 

I do know of small voulenteer depts where people really want to go and get that advanced level of training where you are immersed in a way that just isnt realistic for a volly dept to do. Unfortunatly the city/county/dept doesnt have the funds to send them with food money and if you are already taking Xnumber of days/weeks off from your job you cant afford the added expense.

 

As I have said before and will say again I am torn on this issue but I know that in Ga at least we have many work programs for convicts. When I lived in the western side of the state cons were my garbage men, on both sides of the state we use them to keep public roads, park, cemeteries, clean and maintained, with minimal issues. Convict crews will already be called out in Ga for wildland and fully involved structures, I have worked a mutual aid call where between 2 counties we still didn have enough FF and I was a bit worried when thier Van (with FireDept Lights and all ) pulled up. After about 20 minutes I simply forgot that they we cons.

 

Does this mean I want them to run a medical call on my elderly father and paw through his meds not so much. But I do realize that ANYONE that pawed though his meds could be tempted to take a few or have a habit that no one may know about.

Actually in Georgia State prisons have construction crews that go into communities and build things like fire stations, libraries and I think a few schools were built by prison labor. The community pays for the materials and the work is done under correction supervisors trained in the construction industry trades  

John, I can tell you are highly educated and make very value added statements. I believe in most respects we are saying the same thing. Believe me I know and the inmate know they have made a mistake. They are required to serve a set amount of time, high and medium risk have no chance of being in this program. The wardens and councilors monitor and evaluate each inmate and rate their risk from high, medium to minimal. We only deal with minimal; they are usually 1 – 4 years from release date and have been a model prisoner, staying out of trouble and wanting to better themselves. Keeping them in a general population of harden criminals does little to improve their chances of being anything more once they are out.

And because we are in most respects good honest people, who would be a better role model? All I’m saying is get all the facts here. We have a track record of making an impact on their lives. They have proven to be a value added addition to our services and have left here making a difference in the way they think and wanting to better their self.  

The program Olivia commented about has been in place for around 10 years using them to assist in training at our academy. My Director was also involved with developing the program using them out of the prison site as mutual aid to assist with structure and wild land fires. Since this program has been in existence not one of the inmates that has completed the program has gone back into the system.

So that brings us back to the original question here could this work? YES it has and is working, and with a track record like no other program to rehabilitate.

Anyone is welcome to come and see the program first hand and ask questions. And as far as letting them be Police, come on they need good examples. LOL          

The point here is we can saves life’s in more than one way and trust is earned. We do not know the background of the people we serve or the people we serve with.

With the inmate program you know that they have at least committed a crime and where caught. They are paying the price by losing their freedoms, do you honestly fill that none of them should have the right to repent. I’m not saying all, because frankly some of them do belong there.  

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