The Role of the Prison Guards Union in California’s Troubled Prison System

Jailing is big business.  California spends approximately $9 billion a year on its correctional system, and hosts one in seven of the nation’s prisoners.  It has the largest prison population of any state.  The number of correctional facilities, the amount of compensation for their unionized staffs, and the total cost of incarcerating a prisoner in the state—$44,563 a year—have exploded over the past 30 years.  Over that same period, the quality of the state’s prison system declined precipitously.  From the 1940s to the 1960s, California’s correctional system was the envy of the nation:  Its wardens held advanced degrees in social work and wrote groundbreaking studies on prisoner reform and reducing recidivism.  “California was the model of good correctional management and inmate programming,” says Joan Petersilia in California’s Correctional Paradox of Excess and Deprivation, 37 Crime & Just. 207, 209 (2008), “and its practices profoundly influenced American corrections for over 30 years.” 

By the 1980s, however, California began radically reforming its prison system.  Prison Population - RateAn incarceration rate that had held to 100 to 150 per 100,000 Californians prior to 1980 spiked to over 450 by the year 2000.  The prison population surged from less than 25,000 in 1980 to more than 168,000 in 2009.  The state’s prison budget swelled to meet the needs of the more than six-fold population increase.  Between 1980 and 2000, California built 23 new prisons.  New guards were needed to staff the new facilities, increasing their number from approximately 5,600 to nearly 30,000 over the same period.  Prior to construction, annual spending on the state’s correctional program amounted to about $675 million, or about 3% of California’s general fund.  By 2008, spending topped $10 billion, and consumed almost 11.5% of the state’s general fund. 

It still wasn’t enough, however, since spending on rehabilitation was systematically excised from the state’s correctional policy at the same time in around 1980.  As a result, according to the San Francisco Chronicle in 2002, California has the highest rate of recidivism in the nation:

Before the mid-1970s, most sentences were indeterminate, meaning that most inmates could get off much earlier than their original sentence if they completed vocational or academic classes in addition to good behavior.

The state replaced that system with one lacking an incentive for inmates to take classes or get counseling to help them prepare for life outside prison.

Now, virtually everyone released from prison spends three years on parole. Most – about 71 percent – end up back in prison within 18 months – the nation’s highest recidivism rate and nearly double the average of all other states.

According to data provided by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, in 1977, parolees who were returned to prison or convicted of new crimes accounted for just 10% of California’s prison population.  The percentage topped 20 only once prior to 1980.  In 2009, however, the number was an alarming 77%, having held firm between the high 60s and low 80s since 1986. 


The growth of California’s incarceration system, and the decline of its quality, tracks the accession to power of the state’s prison guards union, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association (“CCPOA”).  The CCPOA has played a significant role in advocating pro-incarceration policies and opposing pro-rehabilitative policies in California.  In 1980, CCPOA’s 5,600 members earned about $21,000 a year and paid dues of about $35 a month.  After the rapid expansion of the prison population beginning in the 1980s, CCPOA’s 33,000 members today earn approximately $73,000 and pay monthly dues of about $80.  These dues raise approximately $23 million each year, of which the CCPOA allocates approximately $8 million to lobbying.  As Ms. Petersilia explains, “The formula is simple: more prisoners lead to more prisons; more prisons require more guards; more guards means more dues-paying members and fund-raising capability; and fund-raising, of course, translates into political influence.”


The CCPOA has used this political influence to advance a highly successful pro-incarceration agenda.  Alexander Volokh writes in his article, Privatization and the Law and Economics of Political Advocacy, 66 Stanford Law Review 1197 (2008):

many of [CCPOA’s] contributions are directly pro-incarceration. It gave over $100,000 to California’s Three Strikes initiative, Proposition 184 in 1994, making it the second-largest contributor. It gave at least $75,000 to the opponents of Proposition 36, the 2000 initiative that replaced incarceration with substance abuse treatment for certain nonviolent offenders. From 1998 to 2000 it gave over $120,000 to crime victims’ groups, who present a more sympathetic face to the public in their pro-incarceration advocacy. It spent over $1 million to help defeat Proposition 66, the 2004 initiative that would have limited the crimes that triggered a life sentence under the Three Strikes law. And in 2005, it killed Gov. Schwarzenegger’s plan to “reduce the prison population by as much as 20,000, mainly through a program that diverted parole violators into rehabilitation efforts: drug programs, halfway houses and home detention.”

Ms. Petersilia further observes that “CCPOA-sponsored legislation was successful more than 80 percent of the time” during the ‘80s and ‘90s, including most notably California’s aggressive three-strikes initiative passed in 1984.  Following the 2010 elections, one CCPOA lobbyist boasted “we should be able to develop a good contract with this governor given the fiscal times the state’s in, and we should have no trouble getting it ratified.  We have such good relationships, and we were right in so many races, that we’ve got a lot of friends over there.”  Thus, while the state’s pro-incarceration laws swell union membership and dues revenue, the CCPOA is able to successfully lobby for more generous compensation for their membership.  As of July 2006, the average CCPOA correctional officer earned $73,248 a year—more than the average salary of an assistant professor with a PhD at the University of California ($60,000 per year in 2006).  With overtime, it is not uncommon for California correctional officers to earn over $100,000 a year.  A Los Angeles Times investigation found that 6,000 correctional officers earned more than $100,000 in 2006, with hundreds earning more than legislators and other state officials.

Prison guards also enjoy pensions calculated using the favorable 3%-at-50 formula.  An officer who retires at 50 takes as his pension a percentage of his last year’s salary equal to three times the number of years worked.  (For example, an officer who retires at age 50 after 30 years on the job will receive 90% of his salary during retirement (3 x 30 years).  More on this subject here.)  Since the maximum retirement benefits are 90 percent, working past 30 years is basically working for free.  Teachers, by contrast, receive a pension calculated as 2.5 percent of their salaries per year of employment at age 63. 

As CCPOA member Lt. Kevin Peters observed, the union’s successful pro-incarceration policy results in more and better opportunities for union members:

You can get a job anywhere. This is a career. And with the upward mobility and rapid expansion of the department, there are opportunities for the people who are [already] correction staff, and opportunities for the general public to become correctional officers. We’ve gone from 12 institutions to 28 in 12 years, and with “Three Strikes” and the overcrowding we’re going to experience with that, we’re going to need to build at least three prisons a year for the next five years. Each one of those institutions will take approximately 1,000 employees.

The facts observed over the past 40 years suggests the cycle described by Ms. Petersilia is basically accurate:  higher incarceration leads to greater union influence, which in turn leads to still higher incarceration, and thus higher union membership, revenues, and political influence.  Whatever the initial causes of California’s prison problems, the prison guards’ institutional pro-incarceration and anti-rehabilitation agenda has calcified a broken correctional system.

Timeline of the CCPOA’s Influence in California’s Crime, Incarceration, and Rehabilitation Policies

To provide an understanding the CCPOA’s objectives in and influence over California’s prison system, it may be helpful to recite a brief history of the prison system since the CCPOA’s inception over 50 years ago:

  • 1957:  California Correctional Officers Association (the predecessor to the CCPOA) is founded. 
  • 1972:  In its initial decades, the CCOA largely backed conservative political measures.  For example, in 1972 the CCOA backed Prop 17, which amended the California Constitution reinstating capital punishment following the California Supreme Court decision in People v. Anderson, holding the death penalty violated the state constitutional prohibition against “cruel or unusual punishment.” 
  • 1973:  The CCOA reaches 3,200 members.  It is still dwarfed by the 102,000 member California State Employees Association.
  • 1976:  California becomes the second state after Maine to abolish indeterminate sentencing, which had explicitly embraced rehabilitation as a correctional goal and tied a prisoner’s release date to his or her rehabilitative progress.
  • 1978:  Gov. Jerry Brown signs the Dills Act into law, giving public employees collective bargaining rights. 
  • 1980:  California has 12 prisons.  Prison guards make approximately $21,000 per year. 
  • 1980: Don Novey takes over as president of CCPOA; although no longer working in a prison, Novey continues to receive his $59,900 salary, in addition to his new $60,000 union chief salary. Source: California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
  • 1983:  By the end of Jerry Brown’s term as governor, total prison population increases by 9,899, from 24,471 to 34,640. 
  • 1983:  CCPOA successfully negotiates a 2.5% at 55 retirement package. 
  • 1984:  CCPOA membership swells to 10,000.
  • 1990:  CCPOA contributes $1 million to Pete Wilson.
  • 1990:  The CCPOA contributes over $80,000 to an unknown opponent of Senator John Vasconcellos, D-Santa Clara, who led opposition to a prison-building bond as an assemblyman in 1990.  The much more visible Vasconcellos only narrowly defeated the unknown CCPOA-backed candidate.
  • 1991:  By the end of George Deukmejian’s term as governor, total prison population explodes by 62,669, from 34,640 to 97,309.  The Corrections’ share of the General Fund saw an 81% increase over the past 8 years. 
  • July 1993: The CCPOA is one of the top 10 state political campaign contributors with more than $1 million in contributions, substantially to Republican candidates, including a challenger to an assemblyman who had repeatedly called for slowing growth in prison operating budgets.
  • 1992:  Prison guards’ pay averages $45,000 per year.
  • 1994:  With the help of CCPOA’s $101,000 support, Californians passed Proposition 184, the nation’s toughest three-strikes law mandating 25-years-to-life sentences for most felony offenders with two previous serious convictions.
  • 1995:  States around the country spend more building prisons than colleges for the first time in history. 
  • 1998:  Don Novey, president of the CCPOA, contributes $2.1 million to the Gray Davis campaign.
  • 1998:  The CCPOA donates a total of $5.3 million to legislative races, the Gray Davis campaign, and voter initiatives.  It was the No. 1 donor to California legislative races at $1.9 million.  It contributed $2.3 million into Davis’s campaign, placed television spots for Davis in the conservative Central Valley, and helped fund a bank of telephone callers before the election. The CCPOA contributed $3 million to Gray Davis during his term in office.
  • 1998:  Since approximately 1980, California tripled its number of prisons and increased its inmate population to nearly 160,000 at 33 prisons and 38 work camps. 
  • 1998: Gov. Pete Wilson, who receives $1.5 million in CCPOA contributions in 1998, vetoes pay raises for other state workers while CCPOA members obtain a 12% pay increase, bringing top pay from $46,200 to $50,820.  State university instructors earn between $32,000 and $37,000.  By the end of Pete Wilson’s term as governor in 1999, total prison population increased by 67,875, from 97,309 to an estimated 165,166.
  • 1999:  After the Legislature approves a bill to establish a $1 million pilot program to provide alternative sentencing for some nonviolent parole offenders—estimated to save taxpayers $600 million a year—the CCPOA opposes the bill.  Governor Gray Davis then vetoes the bill.  The CCPOA also persuades Gov. Davis to close three privately run prisons, even though they housed inmates at substantially lower costs than state-run facilities. 
  • 2000:  The CCPOA contributes at least $75,000 to the opponents of Proposition 36, the 2000 initiative that replaced incarceration with substance abuse treatment for certain nonviolent offenders.
  • 2002:  CCPOA contributes $1 million to Gray Davis’s campaign.  The CCPOA contributes $200,000 to defeat Assemblyman Phil Wyman in 2002, an advocate of private prisons. The CCPOA negotiates an increase to prison guards’ pay estimated between 28% and 37%, at a price tag of $500 million per year.  Senior guards earn $52,700 a year, compared to $30,000 for a senior supervisor in Texas.  The California Legislature approves $170 million in extra prison spending.  In addition to granting correctional officers a major boost in pay, the labor pact permitted officers to call in sick without a doctor’s note confirming the illness. With the new policy in place, prison officers called in sick 500,000 more hours in 2002 than in 2001, a 27% increase.  "Our overtime would have been below 2001, or real close, had it not been for that 500,000-hour increase," said Wendy Still, the main budget analyst for the Department of Corrections.  Corrections officers called in sick 27 percent more often last year than they did in 2001, for an additional 500,000 lost hours. More than a third of the overtime logged last year was to compensate for guards who called in sick, according to the Bureau of State Audits.  The California Department of Finance requests $70 million to cover unexpected prison costs from 2001.  In December, Gray Davis asks lawmakers for $10 billion in emergency cuts to other state programs.
  • 2003:  Gray Davis asks the Legislature to approve another $150 million for prison system’s budget.  The CCPOA contributes $25,000 to Senate President Pro Tem John Burton, a San Francisco Democrat, three months after giving $12,000 to Senate Republican Leader Jim Brulte of Rancho Cucamonga.  CCPOA members receive a 7% raise, pushing average annual take-home pay to $64,000.  California’s prison budget is estimated at $5.2 billion.
  • 2004:  The CCPOA spends over $1 million to defeat Prop 66, the initiative that would have limited the crimes that triggered a life sentence under the Three Strikes law. image
  • 2005:  The CCPOA defeats Governor Schwarzenegger’s plan to “reduce the prison population by as much as 20,000, mainly through a program that diverted parole violators into rehabilitation efforts: drug programs, halfway houses and home detention.” Spending on California’s penal system constitutes approximately 7% of the state’s general funds.  CCPOA membership reaches 26,000. 
  • 2006:  The average CCPOA correctional officer receives compensation worth $73,248 per year. Over 900 workers added $50,000 or more to their base salaries in overtime pay; over 1,600 officers’ total earnings topped $110,000.  (Kathryne Tafolla Young, The Privatization of California Correctional Facilities: A Population-Based Approach, 18 Stan. L. & Pol’y Rev. 438, 441-42 (2007).) 
  • 2007: Following a 2007 ruling requiring the state to fix its prison overcrowding problem, the Legislature passes a $3.5 billion bond package to finance the construction of new prisons, yet four years later not a single new facility has been built.
  • 2008:  The CCPOA contributes $2 million to Jerry Brown’s gubernatorial campaign.  The CCPOA contributes $1 million against Prop 5, a measure to reduce prison overcrowding by providing treatment rather than prison sentences for nonviolent drug users. image
  • 2011: Gov. Brown’s proposed Fiscal Year 2011-2012 budget funds the prison system $9.19 billion, nearly 7.2% of the entire state budget.  It costs an average of $44,563 a year to house each of California’s approximately 158,000 inmates in a system at roughly 200% of capacity.  The national average is $28,000.

By 2011, CCPOA members are among the most generously compensated public workers in the state, even while their union resists policy changes to bring prison overcrowding, recidivism, and costs under control.  As observed by Rich Tatum, a 33-year prisons veteran and president of the California Correctional Supervisors Organization, “It does seem at times like the union is running the department.”  John Irwin, a retired professor and commentator of California’s correctional system, worries that “the wardens don’t feel they have much control of what goes on. The cliques – mostly led by sergeants – at the prisons are very strong, and the union, of course, backs them up when they get into trouble.”

That the CCPOA effectively wields so much governmental power explains how the misconduct of their members goes unchecked, and reported sexual assault, unreasonable use of tasers and pepper spray, hitting with flashlights and batons, punching and kicking, slurs and racial epithets, among others, go uninvestigated.  According to the 138-page opinion in Madrid v. Gomez, 889 F. Supp. 1146 (N.D.Cal. 1995), “The court finds that supervision of the use of non-lethal force at Pelican Bay is strikingly deficient,” and “It is clear to the Court that while the IAD [Internal Affairs Division] goes through the necessary motions, it is invariably a counterfeit investigation pursued with one outcome in mind: to avoid finding officer misconduct as often as possible. As described below, not only are all presumptions in favor of the officer, but evidence is routinely strained, twisted or ignored to reach the desired result.”  The court held that the prison guards and officials engaged in unnecessary infliction of pain and use of excessive force, and violated the Eighth Amendment, among other things. According to testimony in Madrid, from 1989 to 1994 officers in California’s state prisons shot and killed more than 30 inmates. By contrast, in all other state and federal prisons nationally only 6 inmates were killed in the same period-and 5 of those were shot while attempting to escape.

Compounding this misconduct is the systemic lack of transparency preventing the public from knowing the full extent of the guards’ abuses.  Union members, for example, employ a “code of silence” to squelch evidence of misconduct:

Even if the CDC were more thorough in its investigation of officer misconduct, it would have to overcome the membership’s last line of defense-a widely accepted code of silence. In the Madrid case, Judge Henderson referred to the "undeniable presence of a ‘code of silence’ … designed to encourage prison employees to remain silent regarding the improper behavior of their fellow employees, particularly where excessive force has been alleged." 889 F Supp at 1157. Novey, asked in the 1998 state Senate hearings if he would say such a code existed, replied, "I wouldn’t totally say that…. But I will attest that there are pockets [of the code], and our job’s to help weed out those pockets." 

As the Madrid ruling chillingly observes, “Certainly, much has transpired at Pelican Bay California state prison of which the Court will never know."

Concurrent with the abuses described in Madrid, similar abuses were under investigation at Corcoran State Prison concerning guards using firearms to break up fist fights:

The investigations at Corcoran State Prison eventually led to the federal indictment of eight officers for allegedly staging "blood sport" fights between inmates that occurred in the security housing unit in 1994. Before the trial, the CCPOA financed an infomercial in 1999 about the tough working conditions at Corcoran. Thomas E. Quinn, a private investigator in Fresno who produced a documentary video showing some of the fights, says the union’s infomercial showed "prison guards as neighbors, and prisoners as the scum of the earth." Broadcast by local television stations prior to jury selection, the ad concluded with the tag line "Corcoran officers: They walk the toughest beat in the state." 

Although prosecutors expressed concern about the ads to the trial judge, they didn’t attempt to stop the broad-casts. The jury eventually acquitted the eight guards of all charges. Immediately after the verdict, some jurors joined the defendants for an impromptu celebration. 

Tame by comparison, the investigation earlier this year into prison guards who smuggled 10,000 cellphones to inmates in 2010—including one guard who obtained $150,000 through the illegal practice—hardly made a blip on anyone’s radar.  Nor did this or the union’s many other abuses prevent it from successfully negotiating a vacation benefits package with Gov. Brown recently for, among other perks, eight weeks of vacation per year, additional time upon gaining seniority, and the right to cash out an unlimited amount of accrued vacation time upon retirement at final pay scale.  Although the CCPOA insists the deal simply pays its members for the vacation days they were unable to take due to staffing shortages, the CCPOA itself is a significant contributor to the overcrowding and budgetary constraints that led to these shortages.

As a result of the overcrowding and dismal conditions in California’s prisons, the U.S. Supreme Court in Brown v. Plata recently ordered the state to reduce its prison population to 137.5% of design capacity by releasing approximately 37,000 prisoners.  For California to comply with the high Court’s order, however, it must contend with a prison guards union at the height of its power.  The state, on the one hand, must negotiate under a strict time table set by the Supreme Court while observing the constitutional protections of its prisoners and the interests of the public.  The CCPOA, on the other hand, has the power to oust those elected officials who fail to put the union’s interests first.  It’s a dangerous stand off, set in motion in part by Gov. Brown himself with the Dills Act in 1978.  There is some poetic justice that, more than three decades later, it is Brown who must confront the powerful special interest he helped create.

[Cross-posted at the main page.]

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. Jesus said to do unto others as we would have them to do unto us. None of us would want our child thrown in jail with the sexual predators over marijuana. None of us would want to see an older family member’s home confiscated and sold by the police for growing a couple of marijuana plants for their aches and pains. How about $100 for a permit to grow a dozen plants? Also, check out w w w . if you’d like to see some very positive material about Jesus at work in people’s lives

  2. Superb job of putting all the information on the table! Best to you always Frank Courser

  3. You have written wonderful piece, now what can be done to change this mess, who is more of a criminal here the one’s behind the bars or the one’s the sheeple voted in, people never educate them selves on what is really happening around them, they just believe everything they hear ….what you have written needs to be broadcast through out Calif,but we know that well never happen…the truth might get out….

  4. Well said! I have a husband at Mule Creek State Prison. He worked for the prison system before his incarceration. He’s seen both sides of this abomination of a prison system and could tell you stories to curl your hair!
    Thank you for your erudite and thorough article. It should be required reading for ALL Californians.

  5. Great article but it did not include a few important facts. California has a below average incarceration rate compared to other large states. The actual correctional bed shortage is the 65,000 county jail bed shortage reported by the California Sherriffs Association in 2006. Based on national standards, the prisons will soon have a surplus capacity of about 50,000 beds. The long term jail shortages resulted in the gradual transfer of county jail inmates to prison where they now occupy about 48,500 expensive prison beds. They are now going to be returned to the counties. That will reduce annual prison operating costs by about $1 billion and create the surplus. The transfer of parolees from jail to prison for violation hearing rather than dealing with violations at the parole unit level bumped the technical violation from about 20%, the national average, to 35%. That adds almost $300 million to annual operating costs. Transferring parole to the counties will return the violation rate to 20% like the rest of the country.

  6. Quote:

    “In 1980, CCPOA’s 5,600 members earned about $21,000 a year and paid dues of about $35 a month. After the rapid expansion of the prison population beginning in the 1980s, CCPOA’s 33,000 members today earn approximately $73,000 and pay monthly dues of about $80.”


    Well, if we use the government CPI-index from Bureau of Labor Statistucs Inflation Calculator, with the growth of inflation over from 1980 to 2011, $21,000 in 1980 is $$57,823.65 in today’s dollars. So, what we’re really talking about is a $15,176.35 or 26% pay increase in real dollar terms over a 31 year period. Slightly above average for most occupations, but when you consider the growth of the prison population in California and the higher demands placed on its employees, so to the point that many people feel this is an undesirable occupation, the pay increase is explainable.

    As for the dues, $35 in today’s dollars is $96.37. By keeping the dues at $80, CCPOA is actually getting paid LESS money per member in real dollar terms than they were originally were getting since the start of their union. Their rise in membership revenues is due to an increase in the number of correctional officers, but that rise also coincides with an increase in costs associated with serving their membership.

    • Slightly above average for most occupations, but when you consider the growth of the prison population in California and the higher demands placed on its employees, so to the point that many people feel this is an undesirable occupation, the pay increase is explainable.

      The whole point of the piece is the CCPOA has no credibility in complaining about the “growth of the prison population” and the “higher demands placed on its employees” since the CCPOA lobbied for the policies that led to those very results.

      • And the courts, especially the one known as the Ninth Circus, had next to nothing to do with prison conditions and job stress on the guards, eh?

        Lawyers don’t keep prisoners in prison, guards do. And it’s a tough life, a life that often wrecks guards and their families. “Ordinary gentlemen” aren’t signing up for those jobs in droves, are they? They’d rather be UC professors, wouldn’t they? Sure, the guards’ union is part of California’s budget problem but there’s no silver bullet solution to that.

        By the way, where’s LA and Orange county’s share of state prison locations, eh?

  7. The U.S. Supreme Court decision requiring the State to reduce the prison population by 32,000 inmates will eventually save about $1 billion annually. Savings could be increased to $2 billion annually by reducing the prison population by an additional 48,000 inmates. No inmates would have to be released. The 80,000 prison inmates requiring Level III & IV housing would continue to be single celled. 80,000 inmates could be transferred to county contract facilities. County jails would continue to house 80,000 pre-trial and sentenced inmates. Savings would result due to the $25,000 cost differential between prison and local correctional beds.

  8. I completely agree that the public service unions need to be broken and the cost of the system is far higher than in neighboring states. But as someone who has lived in California for a large chunk of the last 25 years the one thing I’ve noticed is that the quality of life for ordinary law abiding citizens has improved markedly in the last 25 years when it comes to the impact and fear of crime. Petty (and not so petty crime) was a daily fact of life 25 years ago. For the last decade or more it rarely seems to impinge on daily life to the degree it did back then.

    I know correlation does not imply causality but that incarnation rate curve in my experience maps quite closely onto the public impact of petty crime on daily life in California. As that curve rose the impact of petty crime on quality of life declined.

    What are the petty crime rates like in states that dont have such a high incarnation rate?

    I know from personal experience that countries in European with heterogeneous populations that have low incarnation rates and liberal sentencing policies like California had back in the 80’s have very high petty crime rates and crime and a fear or crime is a big factor in ordinary life.

    So to me locking them up seems to work. Now we just have to work out how to warehouse the incorrigible criminals as cheaply as possible. Overweening public service unions are most definitely not party pf the solution.

    • I traveled to California to work for periods of a few weeks to a few months between 1977 and 2007 and I concur with what JMC says. Most neighborhoods seem to have a lot less crime than in the 1980s (and much of the crime that does occur seems to be connected to Hispanic gangs). I also noted that former Governor Gray Davis, who was recalled from office while I was working in Redlands, was liberal on most issues but very tough on crime — and most of the people I worked with were okay with that.

  9. The sad fact is that nothing is going to change until the whole system simply slags down. Don’t think so? Who’s going to change it? The politicians? The Unions? The voters?

    Nobody left in California has the character, courage or intelligence to change the system…and those who might have are streaming out of the state.

    How in gods name did you people eff’up Paradise?

  10. They started letting people like Governor Moonbeam, Nancy Pelosi, Willie Brown, and a cast of thousands run the state.

    Wanna see what liberalism achieves? Look no further than California and Detroit.

    • The Golden State was quite Republican until the Joads invaded.

  11. The union has certainly benefited from another popular government initative – getting tougher on criminals and locking them away. Perhaps this is a coincidence of private and public benefit but hardly damning BY ITSELF. The teachers union also has benefited from the same dynamic and coincidence of private and public interest.

    The real issue is the unionization of public employees. You’ve presented a great case study of the dynamics involved, clearly showing the downsides and unadvisablity of laws allowing collective bargaining for such employees.

    One statistic that is not given is the prime directive of a prison – no escapes. How effective has California’s prison system and the people who staff it been in keeping prisoner in prison?

  12. If I recall correctly, the 9th Circuit intervened circa mid 2000’s in the form of the medical receivership. I would be curious to know how much inmate healthcare spending contributed to the rise in average incarceration cost in California versus other states.

  13. I can’t say I know the cost of inmate health care spending impacts overall costs but I have read about a system nurse down in the mid coast area that made over $200K last year and that a prison shrink was the highest paid public employee at nearly $500K! Yeah Yeah, I know, overtime and selling back sick days……….bs

    • Well here we go with a timely article from the SacBee:

      “The state doubled the amount of money it spent on inmate health care over five years, to more than $15,000 per inmate annually.”

      “Spending controlled by the receiver increased from $948 million before the receiver was appointed to nearly $2.3 billion by 2008, according to the state Department of Finance. Spending on medical care, pharmaceuticals and transporting and guarding inmates declined to $1.8 billion for the current fiscal year. ”

      Greedy nurses union?

  14. You seem to be inferring that prison guards are responsible for the high rates of incarceration in California. There may well be a correlation there, but it would be very helpful to us if you also overlaid population estimates in California for ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS during the same time frame. I suspect there’s a very strong correlation there, as well. Seems like everyone dances around that correlation.

    • Slightly under 13% of California prisoners had immigration status holds as of 2009 (latest figures I could find). Most of this number are people in the process of being deported.

      Not sure what your point is, given the wealth of data in the original post showing exactly what drove the vast increase in our prison population that had nothing to do with illegal immigration.

  15. Are these correctional officers still peace officers who are required to undergo police academy training as opposed to prison guards in other states. Also, are they working in these prisons without any weapons for their own protection?

  16. I agree that in many ways the CA politicos, and the guards union, are worse criminals than some of the people they are throwing in jail. They are certainly doing MORE damage to the people of CA.

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