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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It's great that you're involved in this program and see its benefits.  Personally I'm all in favor of giving some people second chances. But let's look at it this way: Getting hired onto a paid fire department is something akin to hitting the lottery. The successful candidate has prepared, from (often) being a vollie, getting his/her EMT (P), taking practice tests, studying (maybe a degree in Fire Science) and applying everywhere.  Despite youthful exuberance, peer pressure and understandable immaturity this person has managed to avoid committing any felony.  What you keep suggesting is that all of this should be thrown out the window and give a felon the same opportunity to get hired as the aforementioned candidate.  So then, crime really does pay!

Brian, while I am well versed with the actual running of the program I did not know that in 10 years not one prioner that completed the program has gone back into the criminal justice system.


I truly didnt think there was a single rehab program in place that had even 50% success rate. I dont know if it speaks to the seletion and screening process, the fact that the job seems to find the right people for it, or if the good lord and all the saints have smiled on this program but I was stunned by that fact.

No Jack these are not paid FF, they assist paid FF. This program should create jobs for FF in communities that could have never afforded to. An inmate cannot supervise inmates until 10 years after they leave prison and have lived a productive life. They can volunteer if a department will let them, or be hired if the department deems them a valuable assist and do not have an inmate program but it has to be at least in GA. 10 years from their conviction date before they can even be considered.  

I travel the country working with many FD’s some small that have no paid staff, 1 paid person 8 – 10 hours a day, 1 paid person 24 hours shift, 2 – 3 24 HR paid shifts, single company and multi-company  and to full blown big city paid depts..

We all know the basic 2 in 2 out and we know it takes a lot more than that to be effective and safe on a scene. Over 76% of this country is protected by Volunteer Departments and volunteerism is dropping. There is nothing bad about volunteers it just support and funding and manpower is not there for many of them.

How can we grow to the level we need and should have been at many years ago without finding a cost effective way to grow these jobs everyone is worried about. I’m not saying an inmate should get a job over anyone else. It comes down to dollars and cents and life safety.

Olivia, maybe your brother in-law can explain.

But I do believe it comes down to the fact that we as FF's are a better example than we think. The moral corrector it takes to do this job is and can be just that powerful. This brotherhood is more powerful than any they may have had in the streets or in prison.

God love each and every one who has what it takes to do this job.    


They are paying the price by losing their freedoms, do you honestly fill that none of them should have the right to repent.


No, I'm not saying nor feel that people, convicts in this case, don't have a right to repent their crimes, but there is no reason that such repent has to come in the form of them filling the roles of emergency responders. There are other services and tasks that such convicts can do that doesn't involve emergency response and can still repent their crimes to society.


Since the issue was brought up about convicts working at the state fire academy, so be it, but there is no reason they need to fill the roles of responders. This is after all, bean counter politician answer to costs, yet such decisions do undermine the fire service too, and it is that I have a problem with.

I do echo what Jack states here about the work involved in regular, law-abiding citizens doing what they can to become a FF. While I realize these convicts aren't paid, they are filling positions of those that would or could be paid.


Now it is up to the community as to how they want the services and how they wish to fund them, but it comes down to the chance they take with such service. There really is little argument that a paid career service with good staffing and coverage can meet the needs of a community quicker than a volunteer dept. However, if a community can't, or more to the point, doesn't want to fund a service, then that is their decision and the chance they take. ( insert script paying service discussion from TN, here) There is no reason the state should thus provide the fire service with convicts at a "cost savings" because the public doesn't want to pay for the service.


The issue being is where do the limitations stop? Let's face it, using convict labor as a "cost savings" demeans the very nature of the fire service itself, and why not institute it all over? Why not? Because the fire service should still be about public trust, convicts have broken that trust, and those that aren't convicta and thus break that trust have no place in the fire service neither. However, there is a large number of law abiding people who have worked hard to find a place in the fire service, who have the education, certifications, training and so forth who should be given a shot over felons, would see those chances diminished for the sake of "cost savings".


The problem with such ideas is we start to see the undermining of the fire service. When looking at the big picture, why even have background checks, testing, certifications, education and so forth to land a job as a FF, when one would only need to commit a crime and be sent to prison to land their "dream job"?  I'm not taking away what these convicts have done there, but the reality is there are many law-abiding hard working people who wish to fill these same spots.


What I see with a push of such service is saying their efforts and accomplishments are no good when we can fill the same slots with convicted prisoners at a cost savings, despite the trust issues involved. What can be said is that FF is just a low-level, demeaning job, that we rely on prisoners to fill because we don't think highly enough of the profession to give a rat's ass about paying a fair wage to some hardworker who wants to be a FF and hasn't broken the law. The fact of the matter is the fire service has changed, it entails more education, there is more "science" behind it, rather than just "put wet stuff on the red stuff". When "we" as a fire service start to allow such decisions like this (made by bean counters and clueless politicians) to be accepted, we thus undermine the rest of the fire service as a whole.

question were they traines for just fire purposes or were they allowed to be rained for ems response as well?


No, but they are trained in first responder and how to used AED and O2. If they can get their felony e-sponged then they can be able once they are in the free world, but not in this program.  

i completly agree and now understand what you are talking about everyone is taking this out of context this is seeming to be a good program and seems to work for now and if it helps the inmate trustees reform then by all means keep up the good work


Would i value a fellow firefighter over a felon? you damn right i will. Put it in context. the brotherhood. "holding two people over a cliff" comes to mind. I would value a co-workers life over the life of a convicted criminal anyday. If given the option, i would choose survival of a fellow firefighter than a felon.
No, because I have a duty to do everything in my power to save lifes, and protect assets. Ive worked in corrections for many years, I know how things work. I know that there is a slim margin of "reform" coming from "corrections". The amount of repeat offenders is rediculous. I should trust every inmate that comes out of prison? absolutely not. i will not. Do i value a life? yes. Would i rather a criminal die than my fellow firefighter? my brother? Absolutely.

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