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How inmates who fight wildfires are later denied firefighting jobs

Firefighters battle flames north of L.A. in this 2008 photograph. Photo: Mike Meadows / AP

Many prisons offer educational and job training programs for inmates hoping to work in fields like cosmetology, firefighting or even law after serving their time. But due to complicated occupational licensing laws, which often automatically deny applicants with criminal histories, men and women who take advantage of these training programs are released from prison only to discover it is next to impossible to be hired for their acquired skills.

Why it matters: There are 4,000 inmate firefighters who have been battling the devastating wildfires in California for $1 an hour. However, they are likely never to land a firefighting job when they are released. Prisoner rights advocate and founder of Root and Rebound Katherine Katcher has written extensively about the challenge facing California's inmate firefighters. She told Axios "the 70% recidivism rate is not going to change" if nothing is done about these licensing laws. "What's the point of letting people out ... [if] there's still an invisible prison around them?"