Jerry Brown's Vacation Gift to Prison Guards


It's always time for Clancy Brown.

If you want to pinpoint the exact moment when the extremely faint hope that California Gov. Jerry Brown might be a Nixon-in-China-style reformer was shot down by a sniper in a guard tower, look no further than the contract he signed a while back with the state's all-powerful prison guards union. 

The L.A. Times' Jack Dolan reads through the fine print in the 200-page contract and finds that it restores a mind-numbing vacation time provision that will make the state's $25 billion structural deficit even worse. California Correctional Peace Officers Association managed to throw out a limitation on vacation time accruals that will allow prison guards to rack up more unused days off and cash them in before retirement at even higher pay rates: 

The deal also would give the members 18 more days off over the life of the two-year contract, according to [Legislative Analyst's Office spokesman Nick] Schroeder, bringing the typical prison guard's time off to more than eight weeks in the first year.

Jerry Brown's sonderweg.

Also in the proposed contract is a change in a provision that encouraged corrections officers to remain physically fit. In the past, they could get up to $130 extra each month if they met certain fitness standards. In the new contract, they would be eligible for the money if they simply go to the doctor for an annual physical, Schroeder said.

The contract still must be approved by the Legislature, which is dominated by Brown's fellow Democrats, and ratified by union members. After feuding bitterly with then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the union has been working without a formal contract since 2006.

This is disappointing news for a number of reasons. We can now throw unlimited vacation time onto the Santa Ana-fueled bonfire with pension spiking, placement agency, air time, and countless other perqs, freebies, giveaways and unconscionable favors public employees have squirreled away. Getting rid of crap like this is the minimum baseline for seriousness about solving the pension crisis. 

More disheartening than any of that, however, is the recipient of the benefit in this case. CCPOA is a uniquely powerful lobby, even more influential than the state teacher unions. It is certainly the most powerful government employee union in California, possibly in the whole country. (Further reading [pdf] on that matter.) I'll be covering how CCPOA works its magic in the July issue of Reason, but one of the strangest angles in all this is that Jerry Brown, who in 1999 was included in one of the prison guards union's regularly updated enemies lists, has in the past decade become a hand-in-glove confederate with CCPOA. There is some reason to believe that improved relationship might provide some actual advantages in terms of getting the prison guards to go along with changes to sentencing and incarceration policies. But this is an ominous indication that the real advantages of this new friendship will end up going where they have always gone: to the unions.

It's all enough to make me break my no-more-Dead-Kennedys-Jerry-Brown references pledge. Take it away, Jello: 

NEXT: New Deficit Strategy: Flaming the Messenger

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Your kids will meditate in jail…

  2. I have to question the wisdom of a state that would employ the Kurgan as a prison guard.

    1. Can you imagine how much vacation time an immortal could rack up?

      1. That may explain California’s pension problems right there.

        1. We need a sword to solve the problem.

          1. Or even just an umbrella.

            1. Immortal British Git #1: I say, good man, there can be only one.

              Immortal British Git #2: Well, I certainly cannot argue with that. I implore you, dear sir, to accept my resignation. My head, sir, is yours.

              Immortal British Git #1: No, I cannot accept your very kind offer. Please take my head as a token of my high esteem.

              Immortal British Git #2: I couldn’t possibly.

              And so on.

  3. Wall off Modesto and turn it into an open-air prison. All we need are a few seismographs and some sniper towers…

    1. Bring it on.

      1. I heard you were dead.

    2. Somehow, Escape From Modesto doesn’t have quite the same zing.

      Unless perhaps you’re unlucky enough to live there.

  4. Brown will have the last laugh when on the last day of his term he pardons every prisoner in California.

  5. One of the first punk rock songs I ever heard back in the day, and still one of the best.

    1. Circle Jerks Group Sex for me, on cassette. It’s so short, the entire album is on both side A and B.

      1. Here are a couple Black Flag songs with a Libertarian bent. Plus, there’s beer!

      2. I’m not sure if you liked it, but Group Sex is still one of my favorites, and I don’t really listen to much hardcore punk anymore. Isn’t the entire album also done twice on each side? Funny stuff.

        Related: DK’s In God We Trust, Inc. had a blank side and on the cassette, they had printed “Home taping is killing the record industry! We left his side blank so you can help.”

  6. Conservatives can tsk-tsk about this all they want, but they are partly to blame, thanks to the War on Drugs, three-strikes law, and draconian criminal sentencing generally.

    Prison guards only have this much political power because there are a LOT of them and because they play to both sides of the aisle.

    I laugh at the follies of California as much as anyone, but the chilling reality is that they are simply just a few steps further on the road to disaster than the rest of the country–but we’re all headed in the same direction. It’s obvious to me that the public fisc will only be “reformed” by crashing. There is simply not enough political will to do what’s necessary while the system can still be salvaged.

    1. Prison guards only have this much political power because there are a LOT of them and because they play to both sides of the aisle.

      The ominous part is that the switch of the prison guard union from Republicans from the Democrats coincides with the Democrats winning statewide elections.

      The Republicans used to be willing to spend a lot of money on building more prisons, which the guard union liked. Once the Republicans stopped the gravy train, the guard union promptly switched side.

      The GOP certainly deserves blame.

  7. “This guy’s about to have an accident.”

  8. Who’s the cutest little capitalist abomination from beyond the stars?

    Lil’ Libertarian Cthulhu

    You mofos have a nice weekend.

  9. Man, this is crazy! Reason Magazine accurately owning up to the relative harms of the prison guard unions versus the teachers unions in two posts in a row? Somebody call the Koch Bros. The extension cord for The Brainwaive Manipulator Machine must have come lose from the socket!

    1. If it hasn’t been made official, any reference to the Koch bros is a drink trigger.

      *clears throat*


    2. Troll fail: you were supposed to insinuate that they were doing the bidding of the private prison industry.

  10. Cavanaugh, don’t ever apologize for Brown again. Please.

  11. You don’t understand: these negotiations were already underway when I became governor.

    There was no stopping it.

  12. Doubling the UC students tuition and denying an education to 400,000 community college students will be a disaster for business. But this bad move would provide more fodder for the prison and war machines in the form of our youth.

    The teachers are being suckered with soundbites and statistics. Brown has shown his payback to the prison guards after taking $1.8 mil in donations. The writing is on the wall. Let’s cut our losses and take him out now. Brown is the one who passed the original determinate sentencing laws that created this overcrowding crisis. He’s also the one who refused to hold state employees accountable for torture and murder in the prisons and jails when he was Attorney General. Billions in new prison building has already been approved by the legislature. Any increase in taxes will go there. Brown could release 54,000 non violent people from prison if he weren’t such a puppet for the prison guards.

    Liberals to Recall Jerry Brown, please like the page on Facebook. There are many more qualified men and women deserving of having a funded voting group behind them who have the good sense not to give 22,000 teachers pink slips, cut benefits from disabled and elderly then turn around in the same week and give the prison guards a big contract.

  13. There’s always room for Jello(Biafra).

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.