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 ( that the program would put two inmates in each of three existing firehouses in Camden County.



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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There appears to be two separate (but related) issues at play here:

1) Should felons be used as adjunct staffing and;

2) Should felons be allowed to become firefighters.


I think most agree that the answer to both is no.  Utilizing felons as additional staffing in a firehouse means that the slots they fill are NOT filled by honest, law abiding, non-felon citizens.

Brian's statement, "This is actually creating jobs for paid FF’s where they have never had them before" raises the question, 'How are these paid slots being paid for?"  Presuming that there is some kind of 'grant' available to create this program of inmates in firehouses means that adequately staffed houses can ONLY be accomplished so long as inmates (felons) are used.  This is ludicrous.  I'm not against programs to rehabilitate felons, it's just that if there is money available, it should be used to create jobs for honest people, rehabilitation should occur AFTER non-felons are back to work.

However, the discussion is whether qualified felons should be allowed to 'work' as firefighters.  Clearly (based on Brian's earlier statements) only those inmates the meet the requirements (time served, crime committed and behavioral record) can even apply.  So discussions about these inmates carrying weapons, assaulting firefighters, stealing meds or private property are really red herrings based on ignorance of the program (and not a little prejudice towards ex-cons overall.)

And as far as the risk of these inmates assaulting or stealing, I'd suggest a quick google search (3, 960,000 results) and see whether or not these same issues have been committed by actual non-felon, vetted firefighters.

Firefighter Pleads Not Guilty To Stealing Drugs

Firefighter accused of stealing drugs from patient.

Fla. Firefighter Sentenced For Stealing Prescription Drugs

Firefighter in assault case arrested

Firefighter arrested in Cali. arsons

San Antonio firefighter arrested for 4th time

Ex-firefighter Cynthia Economou sued for stealing Karl Lambert's se...

So it would seem that firefighters are NOT the divinely appointed saviors of humanity that many in here seem to think (they are).  It would appear that firefighters can (and the proof will have to wait until there are enough inmates in these programs to prove otherwise) be at least as untrustworthy as inmates seeking to make amends to society.

The above (to me) doesn't mean that an inmate should be allowed to be a firefighter over a person who never committed a felony; only that, for the ones that are already (or hope to be) in these programs are not any more likely to commit a crime than the firefighters they are working alongside with.  That a number of people in here have made unfounded claims that these inmates are going to steal, assault or run off only serve to show their ignorance, prejudice and intolerance.

For those with reading comprehension issues, let me again make my point:

I don't believe that a felon should get a firefighter job over someone who has never committed a felony.

Nor do I believe that, for those inmates that are actively involved in these programs, they are any more prone (and most likely far LESS prone) to commit a crime than any other person, firefighters included (all those RED sentences above are actually LINKS to articles where a firefighter has been arrested, charged or sentenced for the VERY things that some in here have said the inmates will be doing.)

I'm just sayin...

A better idea to save money would be for a county to crosstrain county workers in other agancies of the county to be fill in as fire and ems personnel.

 I remember in some areas of the south where police officers were crossed trained to up hold the law and respond on fire and ems calls.

 Why not have county personnel work one day in their regular jobs and then work in the fire station for a few days. Say like a county dump truck driver or animal control officer.

Brian not sure if you read my first post but I am a firefighter in Georgia who has worked and trained with prison crews in the past. I have also worked with full time paid firefighters that have servered time.


As I said then they are some of the best trained FF in georgia and I am torn on the subject. My first instinct is like a lot of the people who have responded, my second is the positive interaction I have had with them

Look heres the deal when I crossed from EMS to FF/EMS I had an officer that taught me moe about fire service than anyone or any class I have taken to date. He would take time out of his day whenever he could meet me at the station and spend hours going over tool names, gear, drills, figuring out how I had to move my body or tools to do the same job just as well as a male FF that was 6 foot or better. He in many ways made me the FF I am today and I cant thank him enough for it


I later found out he had been a convicted felon who paid his dept to society. A volly took a chance on him, then a full time dept.


Just like the current post about Full timers being better Volly officers I wholeheartly feel it is based on the individual. As Jack pointed out there are many many cases of FF/EMS/LEO getting charged with all manner of crimes that violate or outright endager the public trust.



Let's look here on what constitutes these situations.  I would be more inclined to consider Misdemeanors over Felonies. Should a person be granted a second chance to rebuild and start over if they are fully rehabilitated (or for a lack of a better word " repented") from their actions, should they be considering the fire service?  At least restore the person's right to vote.  How does the public trust weigh into all of it?  We're supposed to put out fires, not start new ones.  We might have badges but we're not cops. The FM has the authority of a cop in most places, but it's not his place to be more cop than Firefighter.  We can't be the firefighter and the cop at the same time. 

I'm posting this link because I would like for folks to read it.  It tells the general differences between felonies, misdemeanors and infractions.

My background came from Security. I had a lot of high profile assignments and I was in court for many of them often. Let's not use the terms loosely because public safety is ALWAYS at stake.  Why compromise?  

As wildland firefighters, the use of inmates makes perfect sense. They receive proper training and are supervised at all times. However in the Camden County, GA scenario, the inmates will be responding on house fires, structure fires, EMS assists -- I think that by virtue of this one-on-one contact with the public, the concept is a bit skewed.

Olivia, I’m sorry your earlier statements got lost in the tread. Many Georgia FF that have trained at the academy know the level at which these guys are trained and so do many Chiefs, that is why these guys are given chances and many are hired after release. And yes everyone should be torn but at least be open to what has already been proven.

The big thing I hear is everyone is afraid, but rather be uninformed. Jack has made an informed discussion point above. There are many in our ranks that cannot be trusted. I am more scared of the person walking down the road than these guys.

They have to prove themselves to me paid or inmate. Does anyone blindly accept a new FF just because they are paid? Just because they pass the background check? If you do than you are a duma@#.

And I noticed no one has answered the question do you qualify the person you are rescuing before or even after you save them? And yes this is not the question or is it? Truly? Where are you going to draw the line?

I know as much about you as you let me know, should I take everyone at face value. (And this is not directed or meant to offend anyone) But let’s face facts how much do you know about your neighbors? Like Olivia stated she learned a lot form this guy that she later found out was a convicted felon.

I have worked and trained with many of these inmates for years and there are many I trust and have trusted with my life, I cannot say that about all of them and I can’t say that about all the FF’s I have worked and trained with around the country.  As my grandma used to say “The proof is in the pudding”

I did an interview earlier today with FFN please read the story and ask the questions bring up the points. Don't just blindly make uninformed remarks. This program has an above average success rate and is creating jobs for the fire services. And even though it may not be the most ideal it is creating them at a more cost efficient way without just placing one man in a station and hoping some support will come.   

I have seen this done depending on the support you really receive it has been a bomb. The city workers generally do not want too, there are exceptions but you cannot volunteer for the government you work for and that is what most want them to do. Training and maintaining training is where the problems pops up. What about after hours, they do not want to pay overtime; they are in the middle of a major project and they do not want them to leave.

Law enforcement is a more viable option but many of the same issue arise here as well. Maintaining post hours and FF training hours, after hours and securing their weapons is a security issue as well as a life issue should they be unarmed to enter a fire.

The only real option here is using them a support which most will be willing to do if available, but it is unreliable to depend on. They have jobs to do and their primary job will win every time.

Ill answer your question. It's not my job to save the personal lives of inmates. The fire dept should leave that to the dept of correction!! (unless, of course, they are on fire and/or stabbed 45 times).


Do they deserve a second chance? Sure... but only after all those that have applied, passed, but didnt score high enough to make it, get a first chance.


If it were only about the money saved, I am all for it. But it's not!

It sounds like more tea party crap to me.


It might be interesting to see on a ballot.

Jack you make some very good points and they are informed points. But may I correct one issue that seems to be popping up. They are not taking paid jobs from FF’s; they are filling a life safety gap that many cannot see.  

This was a volunteer FD very unbalanced and unevenly supported VFD’s. Very good people but there where the haves and have not’s.

Nationally volunteerism is on the decline; mainly because of jobs and fewer people willing to part with their time. Communities are becoming bedroom communities meaning no one around or older people unable to do the job, during the day which means we need paid staff.

Most communities if they can make this commitment will pay for one man to be available 8A – 5P or something like that or they may have one person on at a time 24 hours and hope someone else will be available to help. This is not safe, effective or fair. But as tax payers this is all that can be afforded. The money just cannot fall out of the sky.

There is no State or Federal laws that I’m aware of that says fire service has to be provided.  Just rules about what you have to do if you want to be a FD or FF.

If people think these communities are just going to make these jobs to the standards for safe effective fire service, please let me know how they will be funded. I’m not taking about existing departments, the inmate are not taking existing FF jobs. They are allowing us to preform or job safely.

Is this ideal?

Should it be standard?

Would this allow those communities to make these better paying jobs down the road?  

Could this allow us to be paid a rate to allow us to enjoy or off time instead of working another one or two jobs just to survive?

For the cost of one FF you get four.

The question was on a scène, forget this inmate program, we are talking everyday business.

Do you ask the victim of a car wreck or persons house that is on fire what their criminal history is?

Do you find out, before I save your life are you going to kill, rob, rape or hurt anyone?

Do you trust a untested rookie or new FF just because they pass a background check?  

The question was on a scène, forget this inmate program, we are talking everyday business.
Do you ask the victim of a car wreck or persons house that is on fire what their criminal history is?


What does it matter? What does a person you respond to have to do with the people responding? So what is your point here?


Do you find out, before I save your life are you going to kill, rob, rape or hurt anyone?


Again, what is the point of such a question? Are you thus suggesting that there should be some form of vigilante approach in the jobs here or something?

Do you trust a untested rookie or new FF just because they pass a background check?


Yes. I saw your comment before saying that if anyone does, then they are a dumbass, well I could care less what you think about that. Put the same question in the military perspective with a new member to a unit. If that unit is in combat, you have to trust each other, proven or not proven. So why shouldn't it be the same for a new FF or untested rookie? They go through training for a reason, why shouldn't you trust someone then? Besides there should be more to a new FF coming in than just a background check. 


Actually, I would say it is the dumbass who doesn't trust a new FF or rookie unless they have done something to demean or tarnish that trust. If your in a fire and you are depending upon seeing how the rookie is going to hold just may never live to find out the answer. So yes, there has to be a level of trust even with the newest member or rookie.


There in lies the crux of the issue here, a convicted felon has shown they have broken that trust and despite any other potential trust breakage from anyone not convicted of a crime, etc, the simple fact remains, that they also haven't done anything to prove otherwise, now have they?

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