Calls to Action: LegislatorsPrison Spending

Prison Guard Compensation Study

Last June, the governor and legislature granted a $500 million salary increase to state correctional officers without complying with Subsection (c) of Gov. Code Section 19826, which requires the state to produce a study of salaries of employees in comparable occupations before awarding a new contract. So Govern For California commissioned such a study. Its conclusions are stark.

Even before the increase, CA correctional officer wages were more than 20% above the next highest state and more than double the median state.


CA State correctional officer wages in 2020


That’s the case even after controlling for cost-of-living differences, experience, education, and other demographic factors.


CA State correctional officer wages relative to those in the average state, controlling for experience, education and demographic characteristics, wages adjusted for differences in state cost of living


CA correctional officers also receive above-market pension benefits per dollar of salary and costly subsidies for post-employment health insurance even if eligible for Medicare or Obamacare.


Present value of retirement income for an illustrative worker: pension income, social security income, and employer-supported DC assets, net of all employee contributions

The current contract expires in 2023.
The Legislature should make the next contract a top priority. CA correctional officers should be appreciated but not excessively compensated for their important work. This situation also points out the need for a ban on political donations from organizations whose shareholders, employees or members receive money under agreements with the state to provide services. Lawmakers should not accept donations from entities to whom they award taxpayer funds.