USA: State inmates due back in area woods Work camp goes after wildfire fuels
11 May 2006
published by KTVZ.comnews
Late this month, Oregon Department of Corrections minimum-security inmatework crews will begin an eighth year working with the U.S. Forest Service torestore forest health and reduce fire hazards in Central Oregon.
The 105 inmates assigned to the award-winning Deschutes Conservation Campwill be supervised by correctional officers and receive technical direction fromForest Service employees. The 10-man crews typically work six days a week andlive in tents in a remote forest location.
By having inmates live and work on the forest rather than traveling fromSalem or Lakeview prisons, the program is more efficient in terms of time andproduction.
Corrections officials select inmates based on a number of criteria. Forexample, inmates must have fewer than three years remaining on their prisonterms and have demonstrated good behavior while incarcerated. Convicted sexoffenders and arsonists are barred from the program.
“Last year, we invited the program back for a fall session because ofthe inmates’ success in hand-piling brush and woody debris in the forest,”said Deschutes National Forest Supervisor Leslie Weldon. “The inmatesworked on fuels treatment with a focus on protecting homes and recreation sitesthroughout the forest.”
In addition, she said the inmates learned critical skills that will help themobtain employment in landscaping, nursery and forestry fields upon release.Deschutes Conservation Camp inmates will complete a 9-week training program andreceive key firefighting training that documents their skills. They can use the documentation to seek employment with firefightingcrews following their release.
This summer’s program will focus on protecting homes adjacent to forestedland and creating wildland fire defensible space around many communitiesincluding Sisters, Camp Sherman, Crescent and La Pine. The inmates will alsocomplete projects that reduce fire threats to the Bend watershed and criticalthreatened and endangered species habitat.
“This partnership is a great example of the DOC’s Oregon AccountabilityModel at work,” said DOC Captain Jeff Forbes, camp commander. “It isgratifying to watch the growth of the inmates while they participate in such aworthwhile program.”
The Oregon Accountability Model is both a philosophy and an action planembraced by the DOC to hold inmates accountable for their actions and reduce therisk they will continue criminal behavior, both while incarcerated and followingrelease.
“Together with the Forest Service and local communities, we have createda national model in Central Oregon,” said Corrections Director MaxWilliams. “This project supports the state’s goal of teaching inmatesvaluable work skills.”
The partnership program received two former federal awards. In 2001, itreceived the Forest Service’s Caring for the Land Award for the Oregon andWashington region. Secretary of Agriculture Ann M. Veneman also presented anaward to DOC officials in July 2002 for their significant work in criticalhabitat restoration areas of Central Oregon.