A California prison system that has grown to be the nation’s largest and has been criticized and sued for severe inmate crowding is heading for an historic downsizing, says the Associated Press. About 26,000 guards, janitors, cooks, records clerks, and correctional counselors are being warned they could be laid off, though far fewer will lose their jobs. The move results from the new law that shifts lower-level offenders to county jails to save money and reduce prison crowding.
“It’s quite remarkable that, for the first time since the 1980s, there’s actually a stabilization and eventual shrinking of the prisoner population,” said Joshua Page, a University of Minnesota sociologist who wrote a book on the growth of California’s penal system. The downsizing could strike a significant blow against the politically powerful guards’ union, which will be a big losers as inmates, parolees, and the money to house and supervise them flow to the local level, said Franklin Zimring, a University of California, Berkeley law professor. “The largest measure of their political impact was their financial clout,” Zimring said. “Every dime that goes to the local level should be seen as a threat to the guards’ union. Eventually, it will weaken it.”