The CCPOA and Prison Overcrowding

Blogging has been light as I’ve continued work on a major piece exposing the role of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association—the prison guards’ union—in the state’s eight-fold increase in the number of incarcerations in just three decades, proximately resulting in the U.S. Supreme Court’s injunction requiring the state to release approximately 37,000 convicts back into our communities over the next two years.  The public sector union’s improvident and anti-democratic self-dealing in pushing blindly pro-incarceration and anti-rehabilitative state policies has served only to create further demand for prison guards, driving up membership, salaries, and—most importantly—dues, and resulting in a dangerously powerful special interest that prevents the state from addressing the serious problems outlined in the Brown v. Plata opinion. 

More to come.

Tim Kowal

Tim Kowal is a husband, father, and attorney in Orange County, California, Vice President of the Orange County Federalist Society, commissioner on the OC Human Relations Commission, and Treasurer of Huntington Beach Tomorrow. The views expressed on this blog are his own. You can follow this blog via RSS, Facebook, or Twitter. Email is welcome at timkowal at


  1. The public sector union’s improvident and anti-democratic self-dealing in pushing blindly pro-incarceration and anti-rehabilitative state policies

    Thank God the party of small government has been pushing back so hard on all of this.

  2. I have not followed this issue at all, but to what degree would you apportion the blame between this union and the policymakers who heed the union’s policy suggestions?

    • I plan to cover this thoroughly in a forthcoming post. As to your specific question about “blame,” as a philosophical matter, I tend toward the view that blame for policy lies with the policymakers. That special interests have polluted the process makes them contemptible, but ultimately I think I would put all “blame” with those who are charged to prevent such interests from becoming so dangerously strong as they have: our representatives, the courts, and really also ourselves.

      Again, if you meant your question in a more practical sense, I will cover this soon–hopefully by next weekend.

        • What’s interesting about the issue is the blame is bi-partisan: the union has appealed to the pro-incarceration/anti-rehabilitation bias of the Rs, and the pro-labor bias of the Ds.

          • Yes. It’s great to be Tough on Crime, but we long since quit being smart about it. And we used to. We no longer much try to rehabilitate, which is why we have a 2/3 recidivism rate in this state. There’s nothing “Tough” about keeping criminals predisposed to crime.

          • If I ever run for office, I think I’ll use “Smart on Crime” as part of my boilerplate speech.

          • While you’re being smart, I’ll be tough:

            “The smart thing is to know that these are violent criminals. They’re not like you and me. (Points to pictures of convicts who are obviously not like you and me, because their skins are much darker.) You can’t coddle them, you can’t give them lots of privileges and programs, you can’t ask them please not to rob you or murder you. You need to teach them the consequences of their crimes, and if they don’t learn from that, you need to lock them up for good. My opponent says he’s smart, but he can’t be too smart if he can’t see that.”

            I’ll expect your concession call about 8:01.

  3. I’m really looking forward to the promised piece, Tim. While I think the problem is more complex than just corruption at the hands of the guards’ union, that’s a critical facet and one that ought to outrage anyone who takes a good look at it.

  4. Sounds pretty interesting. If you’re posting it here, make sure it’s cross-posted on the league, if’n you don’t mind.

  5. County jail shortages resulted in the transfer of over a third of the jail population to prison between 1985 and 1995, causing minor overcrowding. The transfer of violation hearings to prison also caused the technical violation rate to jump from 20%, the national average, to 35%, adding about $250 million to annual prison costs. Noting the big jump, I was told to develop proposed policies to bring the rate back down, which I did with a proposal that basically restated existing regulations and policies. I accompanied the Deputy Director and some parole managers to a meeting with an agency undersecretary who basically claimed that the proposal would not stand up to court review. The parole executives knew that was not true (the policies & regulations had been in operation for many years) but they were obviously and noticeably relieved. They probably assumed (correctly I believe) that the CCPOA was opposed to the proposal. The violation rate was still at 35% the last time I checked. Under redirection, the rate should return to 20%.

      • The DC&R Web site is at: The jail data is available at the CSA web site at the same address. The prison historical prison data is at the same web page. If you want data on the jail/prison split, I can forward that to you if you forward your email address.
        The main point is that the State would have saved many billions if it had just put the low-level offenders in contract facilities like other states and the Federal prison system have done. The State will save about $1 billion annually due to the Supreme Court decision. It could reduce prison costs by $2 billion annually if it were willing to limit prisons to Level III & IV inmates and place all the Level I & II inmates in county contract facilities where they belong. That, of course, will never even be considered because of CCPOA influence. The CCPOA has far more influence than the University systems and even K-12 education.

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