Home Emergency Management News California Legislation Proposes Former Inmates as Emergency Medical Technicians

California Legislation Proposes Former Inmates as Emergency Medical Technicians


By Allison G. S. Knox
Contributor, EDM Digest

Emergency Medical Services as a nation-wide entity has seen a dramatic decrease in the recruitment and retention of paid and volunteer Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics. The problems with recruitment have forced numerous agencies to get creative and to think of new ways to keep their employees and members.

At the same time, the Trump administration has been working on prison reform. People released from prison find it difficult to rebuild their lives. Jobs that some former inmates were once passionate about can be difficult to obtain again. That makes it difficult to make ends meet.

A new bill in California's legislature would combine these two issues.  AB 2293 Emergency Medical Services: Licensure would permit released felons, who are not convicted rapists or murderers, to train and work as Emergency Medical Technicians. That would provide them with an avenue of employment.

The bill certainly presents an interesting idea at a time where recruitment is at an all-time low and former prisoners need to rebuild their lives. However, the bill doesn't address some of the other problems that Emergency Medical Services have, which makes the idea flawed.

EMS and the Opioid Epidemic

The opioid has affected communities throughout the United States. Emergency Medical Services have certainly received the brunt of this epidemic. Ambulance agencies are routinely responding to overdose emergencies, making their jobs particularly difficult. To make matters worse, many agencies report having employees who steal medications out of the ambulance. In one case an EMT and her boyfriend broke into an ambulance company to steal medications. Of course, similar instances are rare, but when they have occurred, they have raised serious concerns about keeping certain medications on ambulances.

Embezzlement of EMT Funds

There have also been cases of those in leadership positions embezzling money from the organization. An EMS Director was charged with embezzlement recently, underscoring that Emergency Medical Services aren't isolated from such crimes.

Professionalism and Emergency Medical Services

Professionalism is a key component of Emergency Medical Services because these professionals daily deal with life and death decisions. More importantly, patients need to feel safe with their providers in the midst of an emergency call.

Convicted Felons as EMTs?

Because there have been problems with the opioid crisis and embezzlement cases within Emergency Medical Services, perhaps this isn't the right profession for former inmates. EMT work is already a high-risk profession, and agencies simply can't take chances with individuals who have served time for felony offenses.

The idea of training convicted felons to work as EMTs certainly might help with recruitment and retention. But you can't put them in a role where they deal with the public. If an individual has already committed a crime, there is a higher chance that he or she might do it again; that is just too much of a risk for most ambulance companies to take.

Society should find professions that would work well for former felons. Unfortunately, the issue of EMS recruitment and former inmates rebuilding their lives won't be solved by the proposed California legislation.


Allison G. S. Knox Passionate about the issues affecting ambulances and disaster management, Allison focuses on Emergency Management and Emergency Medical Services policy. Allison has taught at the undergraduate level since 2010. Prior to teaching, she worked in a level-one trauma center emergency department and for a member of Congress in Washington, D.C. She holds four master’s degrees in Emergency Management, National Security Studies, International Relations, and History; a Graduate Certificate in Homeland Security; and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. Allison is an Emergency Medical Technician, Lifeguard, and Lifeguard Instructor, and is trained in Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue. She serves on the Board of Trustees for Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society as Chancellor of the Southeast Region, Vice Chair of the Tactical Emergency Medical Support Committee with the International Public Safety Association, and serves as the Advocacy Coordinator of Virginia with the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians. She is also a member of several committees including the Editorial Committee with APCO, the Rescue Task Force Committee with the International Public Safety Association, and the Advocacy Committee with the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians. She also serves as Chair of the Leadership Development Program for the 2020 Pi Gamma Mu Triennial Convention. Allison has published several book reviews and continues to write about issues affecting ambulances, emergency management, and homeland security.