Who’s making the rules? Time added to sentences for our brothers at the fire camp

Prisoner firefighters risk their lives every day for very little pay and a promise of a shortened sentence. Here they had to retreat from a wall of fire that engulfed a canyon. – Photo: Reed Saxon, AP

by Ulysses Walker III

Dear readers of the Bay View,

My name is Ulysses Walker III, and I am currently serving my time at a conservation camp. I am writing to bring awareness to the unique situation that is happening to inmates housed in fire camps. As of May 1, 2021, inmates housed at camps will no longer have a projected release date due to the implementation of emergency regulations. So whatever time that had not been earned was placed back on to our sentence. 

My release date was Nov. 17, 2021; currently, my date has been pushed out to Oct. 29, 2022

I had already been in camp for six months at the time the emergency regulations went into effect. My date was Nov. 17, 2021; currently, my date has been pushed out to Oct. 29, 2022. The department of corrections says that you can earn your date back with their 30 for 30 program. But even with the 30 for 30, I am four months over the actual release date I was given for coming to camp. 

As of May 1, 2021, people caged at CDCR fire camps like the one pictured here in Chino will have no projected release date due to the implementation of so-called “emergency regulations.” Article author Ulysses Walker’s release date was originally Nov. 17, 2021; currently, his date has been pushed out to Oct. 29, 2022 – a gross violation of a contract by the state. – Photo: Jennifer Cappuccio Maher, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

There is also a period where I cannot earn time, due to the 60-day victim notification. I have been incarcerated in state prison for the last 11 years. I have nine years straight with no write-ups. I worked my way down to the lowest level within the system. I am only here at camp because I wanted to earn 50 percent off my sentence. 

Our dates pushed out to the point where most of us will not have the ability to get back where we were. 

I entered into a contract with the Department of Corrections stating that I would serve the community for this 50 percent of time reduction. With these emergency regulations, our deal was breached. Inmates in fire camp are some of the most hard-working guys within the inmate population – guys who would risk their lives attempting to put out some of these massive fires – all to have our dates pushed out to the point where most of us will not have the ability to get back where we were. 

Guys don’t even have to be at camp to earn what we are now earning. This can now be earned on the yard. The incentive for coming to camp has been taken. The food is good, but, speaking solely on my personal situation, I am not here for a better selection of food. I am here for the halftime we agreed upon. 

Ulysses Walker, his wife Chante, daughter Kamiyah and mother Crystal Denard celebrate his graduation.

I have a wife, daughter and family who I promised that I would be home on that certain date – which I felt was safe to promise, having addressed my vices years prior to camp. My family is stressed about my situation, wondering when I will ever be home. I strongly believe that we are being used as political pawns for a specific outcome. 

Is this how the department of corrections treats its programmers? Eighty percent was reduced to 66 percent for non-campers, but at camp, time was added to our sentence. Shouldn’t all of us be eligible for a reduction of sentence? What happened to fairness? Shouldn’t the inmates already in fire camp have their time grandfathered in? I am scratching my head trying to figure this one out.

With Respect, 

U. Walker

Send our brother some love and light: Ulysses Walker III, AD7698, 8800 Soledad Canyon Rd, Acton, CA 93510.