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members must waive parole or community corrections placement for at least one fire season in order to minimize training requirements.

Qualifying offenders may also re- ceive additional training as squad boss members. However, if a crew member is found guilty of any dis- ciplinary infraction during or after their training, they are dismissed from the program, Laughlin said.

While pay for crew members may not seem great – it’s $.60 per day — other rewards make participation in the program attractive to many in- mates. Not only do they receive training as sawyers and wildland firefighters, the parole board and halfway houses may be more likely to look favorably on those who suc- ceed in the program, said Laughlin. Once they’re red-card qualified, their pay increases by $.90 per day and there’s production incentive pay when monthly billings exceed breakeven revenue requirements and there are no incidents on any fire or work assignment. While on fire assignments, crewmembers are paid $6 per day.

Whether fighting a wildfire or do- ing fuels reduction work, crews are supervised by two full-time crew bosses, who are CCI employees. Crew bosses also receive training and are red-card quali- fied.

Kristin Garrison, project forester with the Colorado State Forest Service, has experience working with the crews on the Upper South Platte and is glad to have the help. “The work they do is difficult and physically de- manding and private contractors often don’t have avail- able labor to perform the work,” Garrison said. “And because of the training the inmate crews receive, they’re qualified to work on federal land under the Good Neigh- bor agreement, which removes barriers to accomplish- ing important cross-boundary work that helps protect communities and important natural resources,” Garri- son added. Crews also are trained in other forest man- agement techniques such as chipping, contour felling and trail construction and maintenance.

In addition to the obvious benefits of the program such as providing inmates an opportunity to learn new skills,

Photo by Kristin Garrison

increasing the number of qualified wildland firefighters and mitigating hazardous fuels, the program also is a benefit to taxpayers. As a cash-funded operation, it func- tions like any other business enterprise. It competes for contracts and relies on satisfied customers for repeat business. And it’s working. The demand warranted the addition of one crew per year during the first three years of the program. A total of three crews, or nearly 75 of- fenders, are currently assigned to the program. Laughlin is also working with Department of Corrections educa- tion staff to develop a curriculum so crew members can receive college credit. And it just might give many of these inmates the tools they need to keep them from being repeat offenders.

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