California’s prison guards strongly influence operations in the state’s 32 lockups, reports the Los Angeles Times. The guards’ contract allows the California Correctional Peace Officers Association–not wardens – to fill 70 percent of the jobs involving the custody of inmates. The group aggressively polices investigations of guards accused of wrongdoing. The organization has won relaxed sick-leave rules that officials say interfere with staffing and cost the state millions of dollars a year.
Bosses who run afoul of the union are bombarded with cumbersome, costly grievances. Some supervisors have given up trying to discipline errant officers or remove incompetent ones because the union frustrates their efforts. The union’s impact on daily operations is “pervasive,” said former Inspector General Steve White, who has visited every prison. “It is not at all times controlling, but it is at all times influential, and it often is the deciding factor…. The department lets them run the prisons.”
The union has fought hard to win improved wages, working conditions, and training for its 31,000 members, who walk what the guards call “the toughest beat in the state.” “We are one piece of the department,” said guards union Executive Vice President Lance Corcoran. “We are the largest piece of the department.”