Do You Feel Unlucky Today, Punk?

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It's hard to say precisely which of California's public sector unions is the most vile, but I'd place my bets with the Golden State's Correctional Peace Officers Association, which has spread $4.8 million to the majority of Sacramento lawmakers over the past decade, while enjoying uncoincidental double-digit pay increases, a massive prison expansion, and probably looser-than-healthy oversight of rampant prisoner abuse, according to this useful data-mining article by Los Angeles Times reporter Dan Morain. Now, several years too late, the prison guards are getting a bit of a political pushback, from Gov. Schwarzenegger (who refuses to take their money and has pushed for reform to address various prisoner-abuse scandals), and 17 Democratic state senators, who announced Tuesday that the latest $200 million, 11.3% pay increase is an influence-peddle too far.

The union response was typically disgusting:

"In the prison system, if you give in to a bully, you're a punk," [Union Executive Vice President Lance] Corcoran said. The guards union "has never been a punk. I can't say it any more clearly than that."

There is, to be sure, another way of describing "punk": A rape victim who gets little sympathy from the very guards who are presumably supposed to help protect his safety. At any rate, if you accept the analogy, try to figure out who's playing the punk in this exchange:

Thirty-eight veteran lawmakers have voted for every union-sponsored bill to come before them that has become law, according to a review of nearly 40 measures dating to 1994. Twenty-five others either have abstained on occasion or cast no more than a single no vote on those bills. Only one veteran legislator, state Sen. Tom McClintock (R-Thousand Oaks), has voted no more often than he has supported guards' bills.

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  1. I have no doubt that there are some decent guards out there. And I realize that a lot of people behind bars are dangerous people who should remain there.

    But at least some of the inmates may have potential for rehabilitation. I don’t see any hope for rehab occuring if the guards adopt the attitudes described above.

    Gotta love prison guard unions: They package the worst of the right-wing authoritarian world-view into a union for the benefit of left-wing politicians.

  2. Our quid pro quo political environment is the reason that California, not to mention the nation as a whole, has been in fiscal crisis for years. The clear-mindedness of Tom McClintock cannot be overstated. In a smoke & mirrors environment, Tom is the diehard (and often the lone ranger) of objectivism in government. It’s disappointing that voters took to the star-struck subjective rhetoric that encompassed Mr. Schwarzenegger’s campaign.

    Tom would make for one hell of a good write in candidate on this years presidential ballot though…

    more info on the prison unions money grab…

    and more Tom McClintock common sense…

  3. “It’s disappointing that voters took to the star-struck subjective rhetoric that encompassed Mr. Schwarzenegger’s campaign.”

    I voted “Arnold” even though I preferred “Tom”. But really, Arnold was the better choice: he was “moderate” enough so that the Democrats wouldn’t work themselves into a typical obstructionist blather, and he has enough popular pull to take his agenda strait to the voters, bypassing the leftists in Sacramento.

    Tom might have had the best ideas, but without a means of implementing those ideas they wouldn’t have any value.

  4. I know for a fact that there are prisoners with potential for rehabilitation because I visit the state prison in Vacaville several times a year. The CPOA has done everything in its power to make sure the flow of inmates into the prisons does not decrease and that the guards can get away with as much as possible. They gave financial blowjobs to Pete Wilson and Gray Davis (who preferred to come on their collective face, I hear) for years and it’s such a relief to have a governor who’s not interested in being anybody’s bitch.

  5. I forget which comedian first made the joke “Anyone who wants to be President is too crazy to be fit for the job,” but I suspect the same holds true for anyone who wants to oversee humans locked in cages.

  6. Actually, there are a number of decent guards who do want to do the right things, but unfortunatly, loyalty to the union is considered by most guards to be more important than treating the prisoners humanely or in a rehabilitative spirit. The last thing the union, as a whole, wants is for an exiting inmate NOT to return.

  7. Google the Texas prison system if you want to see how to really do it. Low pay, lots of privateering, lots of abuse, plenty of federal lawsuits, huge taxpayer bill.

  8. These sick bastids are BRAGGING about the fact that they’ve internalized cellblock morality?

    It isn’t safe or healthy to have law enforcement officers spent all of their time in prison, with that much power and fear every day. They need to come up for air. Disband the job of correctional officer, and have each state policement spend a few 2 week shifts manning the prisons.

  9. Yeah. Send the guards over to teach school. They already know how to run a metal detector.

  10. There are two potentials they should watch out for.

    First, people with a tendency toward bullying are attracted to jobs where it has an outlet. Second, people who come to the job normal, can be hardened and calloused by the work, after repeated abuse from prisoners and occasions where they use force to maintain order. It’s hard to keep thinking of the prisoners as human beings.

    The need for money to finance campaigns has definite undemocratic problems. I don’t believe in restricting campaign finance laws, because I think that politicians will always leave loopholes in the laws to make sure that they don’t get hurt in their own fundraising. The only thing we can do is publicize abuses like this.

    Enron gave money to both parties but it didn’t get any political cover because of the media spotlight on its crooked practices. Now if we could just get the media to be as tough on lefty scams as it is on capitalist ones.

  11. thoreau- Are you saying that all the abusers-in Iraq and CA- are Republicans??

  12. Public employee unions always empower abuses. Whether it is pencil pushers or prison guards, the union is set up to protect the bad ones. There are thousands of good teachers but their union is designed to protect the lazy and abusive. There are thousands of dedicated police and other public safety workers but the bad apples get union support. I need not mention the prison guards union.

    So long as we refuse to face the fact that public employee unions, with their power to donate millions of dollars to politicians, are destoying the professions they claim to represent, we will continue to see a decline in quality of every unionized occupation. The California Teachers Association has been flooding the radio with ads trying to protect their members from any oversight. Its all NIMBY for budget cuts. McClintock might have stood up to the unions, Schwartzenegger will cave when they cry enough about the children. He’s better than Davis, but social liberals cannot remain fiscal conservatives when they find a “necessary” social program. Arnold will, at least, delay it a bit.

  13. Why are public employee unions even legal is a good question.

    The management of the prisons shouldn’t be from the same union as the guards. I’d also suggest that Schwarzenegger have several new guards hired who are there to record and report any abuse that they see. A sting operation, I suppose.

  14. I just wish we could have gotten McClintock’s principles with Schwarzenegger’s PR clout!

  15. Prison guard has to be the worst job on earth. Nevertheless, most of them are people who try to do the best they can, guarding people who are so damaged they can’t function in normal society. Throw in bureaucracy, and it’s a match made in Hell.

    The real violence is committed by prisoners against prisoners, and those are the ones who are missing the normal inhibitions that free society takes for granted. If I were a guard, I’d probably try to keep myself out of their way too, but there has to be a better way to make the system work for the benefit of all.

    Unfortunately, behavior modification and psychotropic drugs are deemed too un-PC for the ACLU crowd.

  16. Ken Hahn, you have said it well, unions do cover
    the workers who have learned the art of using the
    union, so while others work they sit and wait
    for the old pension day!

    I happen to be in what has become a good union,
    they have done well in watching we are paid well,
    and the pension plan and beneftis are the best.

    However, they are still there, the ones you just
    can not get enough documentaion on to show they
    should be fired. It is unfair and somedays you
    want to join them, but self-respect stops you.

    As for prison guards, I had a husband who worked
    in a maximum prison and I slowly watched him become so cynical it was hard to have a conversation with him. The prisoners know every
    trick in the book, and the sad part is, they get
    away with most of them.

    Swartzenegger would be wise to never take their
    money and start a investigation which I am sure
    will upset quite a few of the people taking
    their cut, but he has the power and should use it.

  17. The solution is for lowlifes to stop committing crimes, then you people won’t have to get all teary-eyed over them.

  18. THOREAU,

    What do you suppose would be the “rightwing authoritarian worldview” in the prison gaurds that would be distinct from a “leftwing authoritarian worldview”?

    Ludlow,

    Prison sentence does not include being raped by other inmates and abused by guards. If that is what the “low-lifes” deserve, then our society should declare so, and stop pretending to be “correctional” facilities.

    Joe,

    Excellent suggestion (rotating the prison duty among regular police officers)! I have heard that prison guards are the bottom of the barrel when it comes to state public service jobs.

  19. Lord Worfin-

    I’m not saying that all prison guards are Republicans, or even that all abusive guards are Republicans.

    Zorel-

    Rightly or wrong, for good or for ill, Republicans are stereotyped as the ones who really want to be harsh on criminals while Democrats are stereotyped as the ones who want to be soft on criminals. Being harsh on prisoners would simply be the right-wing stereotype taken to its extremes. Just as there are plenty of nasty things that could be considered left-wing stereotypes taken to extremes.

    Anyway, a public employees union that claims to be getting “tough on crime” is the worst of both worlds.

  20. RD-

    Good to hear another theory about how the left will destroy our country. You even manage to explain why the evils of the left dwarf the sins of a few wayward prison guards. What’s especially funny is your conviction that the destructor will choose the form of a union, despite the declining clout of labor unions in this country relative to their heyday.

    You get a gold star sticker!

    CHOOSE THE FORM OF THE DESTRUCTOR!

  21. I just won’t think of anything.
    I just won’t think of anything.
    I just won’t think of anything.
    I just won’t think of anything.
    I just won’t think of anything.
    I just won’t think of anything.
    I just won’t think of anything.
    I just won’t think of anything.
    I just won’t think of anything.

    Hmm, marshmellows seem nice and harmless!

  22. Don’t know how this works in California, in Wisconsin the Guards Union’s clout is magnified by Inmates counting as residents in redistricting, but unable to vote, leaving guards and their families in smaller legislative districts, where they’re the dominant voting bloc. While the Union goes Democratic with the other public sector unions in Statewide races, they’re republican for hometown legislators.

  23. We pat our collective selves on the back because we’re confident that our military will never rise up against our Democracy. That’s not where it will come from. The militia that will ultimately support the fall of the American empire will be the unions. They will suck the life blood out of our sensibilities, destroy our ability to compete in the world market, self destruct our manufacturing foundation and become the financial lap monkeys of the left wing zealots. The left’s inherent inability to manage will lead us head long into a brave new world of chaos and civil war. A few union prison guards selling dope and dog fucking a few candy ass inmates will seem like insignificant in its wake.

  24. RebeccaH: The real violence is committed by prisoners against prisoners, and those are the ones who are missing the normal inhibitions that free society takes for granted. If I were a guard, I’d probably try to keep myself out of their way too. . . .

    Are you saying prisoners – from the kid stoner to the multiple rapist – are all sick in the head and therefore it’s better to allow them to abuse each other than to have guards risk getting hurt trying to stop it?

  25. Ben-
    It does work that way in California. I lived in Susanville CA for four years. The prisons were redistricted into the town population, so that the population sign at the outskirts read “22,000” even though the actual population was about 12,000 – 10,000 of that number were inmates.

    My wife had a private counseling practice there, and a number of her clients were correctional officers, via the prison’s EAP system…often, they were the “good guards” who were being abused psychologically by the “bad guards”…

  26. “The militia that will ultimately support the fall of the American empire will be the unions. They will suck the life blood out of our sensibilities, destroy our ability to compete in the world market, self destruct our manufacturing foundation and become the financial lap monkeys of the left wing zealots. The left’s inherent inability to manage will lead us head long into a brave new world of chaos and civil war.”

    This could be a quote from an 1850 edition of my hometown newspaper.

    You’d think that, after 150+ years of being proven wrong, your sort would get a clue.

  27. Your right take the “guards” money away from them. Maybe they will strike and all of you who want to complain can come inside the walls and be surrounded by several thousand convicted felons day after day. As for the contract, why are we voting in these senators who are signing contracts and saying later they didn’t know what they were signing? What are they being paid for?

    Nobody put these inmates in prison. They have choosen their lifestyle with free will. They choose to murder, rape, molest, sell drugs to our children, ect. For you liberal hippies out there, if you don’t like the conditions they live in lets move them next door to you and see how you feel about them then.

  28. Your right take the “guards” money away from them. Maybe they will strike and all of you who want to complain can come inside the walls and be surrounded by several thousand convicted felons day after day. As for the contract, why are we voting in these senators who are signing contracts and saying later they didn’t know what they were signing? What are they being paid for?

    Nobody put these inmates in prison. They have choosen their lifestyle with free will. They choose to murder, rape, molest, sell drugs to our children, ect. For you liberal hippies out there, if you don’t like the conditions they live in lets move them next door to you and see how you feel about them then.

  29. RE:
    Unfortunately, behavior modification and psychotropic drugs are deemed too un-PC for the ACLU crowd.
    Posted by: RebeccaH on May 22, 2004 07:26 PM

    Rebecca, I’m sure in CA, the CDC maintains stats on this, my experience as a convict in four institutions was about 25 percent population were served a daily dose of psychotropic drugs.

    The “throzin (sp?) shuffle” was a common experience.

    I saw countless fights, stabbings, one murder, race riots, etc.

    What I find most interesting about these posts is your collective willingness to advance premises based on isolated instances.

    I’m grateful that even in the seemingly negative comments there is a genuine acknowledgement that there are huge problems in the CA penal system.
    my best, tim

  30. RebeccaH responds to Tim Sprague:

    I have a brother who has spent time in prison. I don’t know your crime, but his was selling drugs and assaulting someone. He has a personality disorder that makes him think the whole world is out to “get” him. Not once has he ever taken responsibility for himself, and while the rest of us went about our difficult lives trying to make a living, do the right thing, make the hard choices, he has always taken the easiest way, which was to let everyone else do for him.

    If you have been incarcerated in four different prisons, I can only conclude that you share certain personality traits with my brother, which is that your problems are everybody else’s fault. If so, you are a prime candidate for my “psychotropic drug and behavior modification” plan. That will not happen, so I have no intention of engaging you in any kind of debate. You are hereby blocked. I hope your life gets better.

    RH

    Well, she really told me didn’t she?
    Note that while Rebecca is happy to make assumptions galore, and “hereby block” me, she chose not to dispute my claim that in CA prisons about 25 per cent of inmates/convicts alreay do the thorzin shuffle as she proposes.
    Love you, Rebecca.

  31. Tim Sprague, You must be nuts. You can’t expect us to believe that psychotropic drugs and behavior modification are currently in wide spread use by the California state government. Why don’t you check out your facts before you waste our time?

    Leave Rebecca alone and go back to prison where you obviously belong. Isn’t there a three strikes program calling your name?

    It is people like you that fill me with disgust.

  32. Sure, some people in prison belong there. And some grew a plant to alleviate chronic pain; and some picked up a hitch-hiker without asking where he was born. What disgusts me is those of you who assume that everyone in there is equally sociopathic.

  33. thanks for your response Erica. I must admit that you do seem uniquely qualified to determine my sanity. (It would take one to know one.)

    I continue to assert that about 40,000 persons in the custody of the CDC are already daily inflicted with the psychotropic drugs Rebecca advocated.

    Without referance to morality, I respectfully submit this is a dangerous policy.

  34. This is in response to Rebecca and Erica’s statements. There are many inmates within the system that receive psychotropic medication to modify their behavior. Mental Health Services administers this program.

  35. RE: Big Al

    Quote: There are many inmates within the system that receive psychotropic medication to modify their behavior.

    Thanks Al. But “many” doesn’t sound like the 40,000 claimed by timsprague. I can’t find any info that specifies a range of patients covered.

    At which institutions does Mental Health Services provide “services”? Is it possible 40,000 persons in CA institutions get psychotropic drugs?

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