Michelle Garcia – Turning my life around.
Michelle Garcia is a mother, a storyteller, a convicted felon and a hope for women serving time in correctional institutions. In 2006 she was convicted of a white collar crime and sentenced to 10 years imprisonment by the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) Her life started to change when she applied for and was selected into the states volunteer firefighting program run by The CDCR. A volunteer program where each inmate is evaluated individually to ensure that all those selected for the camp program are willing to be team members with nonviolent behaviour, even if their original conviction was for a violent crime.
The inmate volunteers live in "conservation camps" and do physical labor like cutting brush and trees to reduce fire danger, clearing flood channels and storm drains and maintaining hiking trails.
The program dates back to 1915, when the CDCR first established labor camps that forced inmates to build highways and roads. The program was expanded during World War II and by 1945, the first inmate firefighting program was established. Today, the CDCR, CAL FIRE and the Los Angeles County Fire Department jointly operate 43 adult conservation camps in 27 counties, with about 3,400 inmates participating in total.
Michelle was released from goal in 2011. She now works with incarcerated women who are close to being released and teaches them how to re enter society.