Of all the talking points, accusations, lies, and half-truths of the “Great California Budget Crisis and Debate of 2009″, the one that consistently distorts the truth completely is the right-wing frame about the state’s Teacher Unions. As strong, opinionated, and well-funded as they may or may not be, when you examine the relative sizes of California’s employee state unions to their political power- and their public image/framing-it’s pretty clear that the teachers’ union isn’t the biggest bully on the block (not to mention that they represent folks who educate our children, which is the most important function a society provides for upcoming generations and the nation’s health). Allow me to present this humble diary about the most wasteful union/industry in state government: the CCPOA and the prison-industrial complex.
(california correctional peace officer association)
(more over the flip)
- change the Be’s diary :: ::
First off, a few startling facts for those who might not have heard them before:
-California’s prison system is larger than the US Federal Prison system, and has held about 50% above capacity for years.
-The CCPOA is currently the most politically powerful union in the state. Not the biggest, but they hold the most clout in politics, especially with the wingers and the Governator. Their clout is why Proposition 5, to divert drug offenders from prison and put them into substance abuse treatment(and save hundreds of millions of $), was torpedoed. Prop 5 opponents include all past and wannabe CA governors, who know they cannot alienate this powerful union. And for all the talk about the liberal conspiracy and the evil George Soros (who helped fund Prop 5), the CCPOA had the resources and clout to easily defeat Prop 5. No future gubernatorial candidate, including Jerry Brown, has or will challenge the CCPOA.
- More than 70% of felons released from prison will eventually be ‘violated’ by their parole officers (twice th national average). About half of the 150k prisoners in state prison are so-called ‘violators’. No court or jury put any parole violator back in prison. That happens solely by non-judicial parole officers, upheld by parole committees also composed of correctional officers. All of the state employees involved, other than in the BPT’s administrative appeals, are members of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association. California is also one of the few states to put all offenders- including non-serious, non-violent, on parole after release, and parole lasts for 3 years.-
In California, parole violations are determined and assigned exclusively by correctional officers – in essence, prison guards. If a parolee’s parole officer says “you’ve violated parole,” the parolee is arrested and taken to the county jail. There’s no warrant, no proof – nothing but the parole officer’s word. He then sits in jail for 1-2 months before being transferred to a state prison, where he sits for another 30-90 days before a “violation committee” reads the parole officer’s report and hears the inmate’s response in person.
The committee then sides with the parole officer (something like 99.5% of the time) and assigns the inmate a violation prison term of between two weeks and one year. Sometimes it’ll be “time served,” since many parolees have been back in custody for 2-3 months by the time their hearing comes up. That’s one aspect of the November 18 settlement – from now on, California has only 35 days from the time the parolee is re-arrested to hold the legally required hearing. Apparently, the settlement doesn’t require it to be more than the rubber stamp against the inmate that it’s been for decades.
If a parole violator wants to appeal this decision, California law requires that he first do so through the Board of Prison Terms’ own administrative appeal process, which usually takes about eight months and always (again, about 99.5% of the time) upholds the violation finding. Only then can the inmate take it to court, but by the time any court would hear the case, even the maximum one-year violation term is over, and the court dismisses the case as moot.
- Prison Guards, like police officers, eat up disproportionate chunks of city/county/state pay, largely because of excessive overtime payment perks. For example, the City of Vallejo declared bankruptcy, and its city budget
dedicated 70% of all money to firefighters/cops. In San Bernandino County, one police officer’s salary ballooned from 60k to over 100k because of overtime. Roughly one out of 10 California prison guards was paid more than $100,000 last year, fueled largely by a jump in overtime.
Some 2,400 rank-and-file correctional officers’ pay exceeded $100,000 in 2005, compared with 557 the year before, a San Diego Union-Tribune analysis of payroll figures shows.
One guard grossed $187,000, making him the highest-paid correctional officer in California, according to data provided by the state controller’s office.
At the historic San Quentin State Prison near San Francisco, one out of five guards was paid more than $100,000 last yea
- Over at TalkLeft, a great post explains how the CCPOA has helped lobby for policies resulting in a tenfold increase in the inmate population in last 20 years. public defender blog postFor brevity’s sake, I will limit the number of examples to those listed above. Right now at Calitics, I’ve noticed some front-page posts about how the current budget deal eliminates all vocational, counseling, and substance-abuse resources in the CDCR. Maybe now we can officially drop the ‘R’ off of the acronym, since it’s been a big joke since it was added. There’s no rehabilitation, only more people in cages for drug crimes, which make up the vast majority of prisoners in the system, on parole, and in county jails as well.
And what’s so shocking about parole is the pure “Scanner Darkly” aspect of profit-seeking in the prison industry…or to quote a wise observer of the parole system:
They have no idea you can serve four years in prison on parole violations after a one-year sentence, nor do they know that a judge or jury will never hear the case during any of that time. The only people who will hear it are those who have a vested financial interest in keeping the prisons packed.
Now compare that to the teachers out there who want to see our kids get educated instead of incarcerated. After all, it appears the best recipe for Republican ‘reform’ of the prisons/budget would be to lock up all the kids now: it’d give them all health coverage and they could eliminate the education budget. (Nevermind that a federal judge took over the medical system in CA prisons because of dangerously inadequate conditions, like rampant disease, staph infections, and tuberculosis spreading.)
personal note: I’ve been gone from dkos for 8 months, it’s kind of strange to be back. Maybe being incarcerated 3x in 2008 on marijuana charges has given a bit of experience in the belly of the beast. But seeing all the hoopla over the budget makes me want to write this diary, and maybe in the future I’ll continue the drug war diaries that I never got to do last year. Shout out to OPOL, another freedom fighter in the struggle who knows what it’s like to get put in a cage because of a natural plant.
Source: Daily Kos