Calls to Action: LegislatorsPrison Spending

CA’s Next Prison Guard Contract

Dear State Legislators,

Last year we wrote to you about the alarming $500 million per year salary increase you granted to state prison guards under a contract extension executed in June 2021 and the state’s failure to comply with Subsection (c) of Gov. Code Section 19826, which requires a study of salaries of employees in comparable occupations before awarding a new contract. Because you did not commission such a study, we did, and the results were shocking. In our note, we implored you to hold the line in the next contract, which will come into effect upon the expiration of the current contract on July 2 — just six weeks from now.

As Governor Newsom has pointed out, California doesn’t have to be profligate to be progressive, but that has decidedly not been the case with respect to management of our prison system. The inmate population has dropped to 96,157 but the state still retains 62,599 employees in that department, and the amounts you spend on them are staggering. Salaries alone are $6.6 billion, and benefits — which are particularly high for that department because of the young age at which employees can retire and the state’s continuing failure to leverage federal health care subsidies for those retirees — are another $4 billion or more. To put those figures into perspective, you allocate $5.3 billion to CSU, which serves 450,000 students.

As the contract deadline approaches, we implore you to hold the line on prison employee compensation and to leverage federal healthcare benefits for retired employees. This situation also points out once again the immediate need for a ban on political donations from organizations whose shareholders, employees or members receive money under contracts with the state. Lawmakers simply should not accept contributions from donors to whom they award taxpayer funds.

Govern For California