Twenty years ago, California’s prison guards union proclaimed that correctional officers walk “the toughest beat in the state.” The Los Angeles Times reports that as a wave of scandal and a budget crisis put their profession on the defensive, “prison officers are striking back with an up-close-and-personal public relations blitz.” The union will show a TV ad in major cities that recounts the beating of a female officer by an inmate and warns that staffing cuts will put more guards at risk. The Times say the union plans to broadcast on cable a 28-minute film that depicts the dangers inside prison, blending footage of riots and tattooed cons with vignettes of officers assaulted on the job.
The movie, “Hard Time,” has been distributed to state legislators, opinion leaders and the media, along with a brochure, “In Harm’s Way,” and fliers featuring the battered face and story of Suzi Jones, the officer attacked in March. Prison tours for the press and lawmakers, with chartered bus, coffee and pastries, have been organized.
“The only time you hear about anything that happens behind the walls is when there are allegations of abuse or riots or escapes. So it gives a jaundiced view of the job we do,” said Lance Corcoran of the 31,000-member California Correctional Peace Officers Association. “We’re reaching out to bring the reality of the job to the public, and so our members see that somebody is standing up for them.”
The annual $500,000 budget for public outreach will more than double this year, mostly to buy TV ads.