Conservation Camps: Carceral Labor in California

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Interspersed within a most varied collection of landscapes in California, stands a vast and complex archipelago of correctional institutions. Besides 37 medium and high security walled-prisons it counts 43 Conservation Camps that are settlements for human treatment characterized by a more permissive incarcerated life. Here 4,000 inmates are employed as fire fighters dealing with eco-disaster emergencies such as fires, floods, earthquakes and tornados, and as manual laborers at the service of local public agencies. Working activities in the open air are regarded as the principal treatment for rehabilitating the convicts, who are approaching the end of their sentence and are assigned to the camps on a volunteer basis after a period in a Training Center and a psycho-physical exam that proved them eligible to work and capable of responsible behavior.