CA prisoner population down, guard pay up

prison - california department of corrections photoFederal court orders forced California to cut its number of prisoners. That resulted in Gov. Jerry Brown’s 2011 “realignment” program, which mainly shifted prisoners to local jails.

Yet overall state prison-guard compensation is up sharply. Reported the San Diego U-T:

Overtime hit a six-year high last year, allowing hundreds of prison system employees to more than double their pay. That’s created a situation in which more than a third of officers make more than $100,000 a year.

The payroll costs for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation have grown $248 million per year higher than they were in 2009, a 5.3 percent increase. During the same period, the population under supervision fell 38 percent.

Going back to 2011, even then California prison guards made twice the pay of their counterparts in Texas, as the San Francisco Chronicle reported, “$71,000 a year, compared with $31,000.”

The California guards’ pay is even higher now — with fewer prisoners to watch behind bars.

The question now is how long this can last. Although a key part of the Democratic Party’s coalition, the prison guards union also competes for money against other public-employee unions, such as the California Teachers Association.

As is being seen in other instances, such as Latinos objecting to the low quality of state schools their kids attend, the Democratic coalition has many fissures. Factions will be fighting over budgets and policy.

During the high-crime era of the 1980s and 1990s, the prison guards held great clout in the state. But with California crimes hitting 50-year lows, as well as sentencing reform initiatives such as Proposition 47, the guards are not as powerful as they once were. Their recent pay increases may become large targets for other factions.

John Seiler

John Seiler

John Seiler has been writing about California for 25 years. That includes 22 years as an editorial writer for the Orange County Register and two years for, where he is managing editor. He attended the University of Michigan and graduated from Hillsdale College. He was a Russian linguist in U.S. Army military intelligence from 1978 to 1982. He was an editor and writer for Phillips Publishing Company from 1983 to 1986. He has written for Policy Review, Chronicles,, Flash Report and numerous other publications. His email: [email protected]

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