The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Friday, January 23, 2004

Now, California's prison goons are shmoozing Arnie...

Last time we visited with the California Correctional Peace Officers Association (January 17), it concerned enquiries into allegations of brutality by its members that were apparently disappeared by California Department of Corrections hack Edward S. Alameida.

This time (via Kevin Drum and Nathan Newman) - it's a variation on the theme.

According to the Orange County Register [1] (January 23),
The state's powerful prison guards' union, considered nearly untouchable by some lawmakers, has agreed to discuss possible salary reductions with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, potentially saving the state millions at a time of fiscal crisis.

(I think
considered nearly untouchable by some lawmakers
is journo code for crooked.)

The upcoming meeting with Arnie was arranged in
a meeting between union President Mike Jimenez [2] and Schwarzenegger's chief of staff, Pat Clarey.

The piece notes Schwarzenegger's
refusal so far to take contributions from the 31,000-member union
- so far.

And says that
Schwarzenegger's legal-affairs secretary, Peter Siggins, said the governor is open to reinstatement of an independent prison-oversight department that was gutted by budget cuts last year.

Why would Gray Davis have gutted the prison-oversight department? Recall from the earlier piece that the CCPOA
gave $1.4 million in direct and indirect contributions to former Gov. Gray Davis in his first term.

Now there's a new Governor, and the CCPOA's contribution budget has to go somewhere.

And we hear from CCPOA wiseguy Lance Corcoran that
his members will only consider salary concessions if they are accompanied by widespread cost reductions throughout the prison system....

Union members will be hard-pressed to agree to salary reductions if they see corrections officials continue to spend heavily on management perks and lawyers for internal-affairs investigations...

I think we can spot the horse's head in that lot!

Looks to me as if any money Arnie saves from talks with the CCPOA will be the most damned expensive money outside of the loan-sharking industry.

Now, there's a thought: perhaps Mike knows a guy...

  1. For which I very reluctantly registered. Some of these rags have egos the size of - well, California. And - FYI - the URL for the OCR piece on the Newman blog didn't work last time I checked.

  2. For a powerful guy like Jimenez, he has a net profile that shows about as much as a cruising alligator above the waterline (whether it's Mike or Michael). Note the spelling: no accent. It's generally spelt Jiménez in Spanish.


The OCR piece says that the CCPOA contract is $420m for 31,000 members. That comes to around $13,500 each. I suspect the paper's number is wrong.


Just to open up the issue for my own education, let me table [1] the John Grisham 101 question: why isn't the CCPOA the subject of a criminal RICO investigation by the FBI [2]?

There do seem to be some resources online dealing with this area of the law. A 1991 introduction to RICO; various RICO articles from the late 1990s on the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers site (most material members only!); various pieces on union rackets from a pressure group; pieces, including a report on the Teamsters, from the House Education Committee; Illinois Police & Sheriff's News looks to have plenty of goodies on labour racketeering.

That lot from the most cursory search: no sign of a recommendable RICO 101, though; and most of the material is not exactly up to date. But one has to start somewhere.

  1. Put on it, not take off it: it's a Dana or Evelyn expression; meaning a thing and its complete opposition. There must be a technical term for it...

  2. I'm pretty sure that it isn't: no mention of RICO in the John Hagar report (DOC) or (together with the CCPOA) on Google.


An October 2003 paper (PDF) Organized Crime and Organized Labor is also interesting. It's what I surmised from its general feel - the guy refers to sections of the paper as chapters - to be from a student seminar at NYU Law School - but turns out to be faculty! Various papers on disparate topics available here - no descriptions, take pot luck.

And what looks like a good source of material from the National Legal and Policy Center Organized Labor Accountability Project page.


Noted because the URLs have come to hand (and, once discarded, URLs have a nasty habit of disappearing out of pure spite!):

A 2003 (I think) piece which says,
The guards union has a history of buying the loyalty of California lawmakers. The union secured their budget by inviting several key lawmakers to a conference it sponsored in Hawaii in December. Last year, as the state budget was sinking into deficit, Davis signed a new contract with the guard's union giving the guards large raises, which will result in annual salaries of $73,000 within five years. A few weeks later Davis received the largest donation check he has ever received from any group: $251,000.(1)

As California Lawyer explained in their November 2002 article, "The CCPOA's influence grew alongside California's phenomenal prison construction boom. From 1985 to 1995 the number of state prisons increased from 13 to 31 and currently house 160,000 inmates in the largest state system in the country.

As the number of prisons increased, so did the California Department of Corrections' (CDC) annual operating budget-from $923 million in fiscal year 1985 to $3.4 billion in 1995. Today it is $4.8 billion. From 1985 to 1995 the number of prison guards increased from 7,570 to approximately 25,000. Wages, benefits, and working conditions for officers improved remarkably: In 1980 the average annual salary was $14,400; by 1996 it had grown to $44,000; today it is $54,000.

..."According to the anonymous criminal law attorney in Fresno, the CCPOA spends far more time urging DAs to prosecute assaults by inmates than defending allegations against officers. This lawyer claims the union pressures DAs to bring felony charges against inmates 'for every nickel-and-dime dispute'-which permits officers to threaten a third- strike conviction as a tool for controlling behavior. 'Scuffles where nobody gets hurt- things that should be handled administratively-the union wants them pressed as a felony,' the lawyer says. 'You read between the lines, and you see the guard pushed the guy [the inmate] to act.'"(2)

Gray Davis is an example of why MIM says the Democrats are just as much a part of the system of imperialism as the Republicans. Davis recently won re-election appealing to voters on typically Democrat issues such as abortion. But while Davis may pretend to be progressive on some issues he is increasing imprisonment faster than many Republican-controlled states. To fight the criminal injustice system we will have to dismantle the system that makes it profitable to eliminate any guise of rehabilitation in favor of raising the salary of guards.

SF Chronicle, January 13, 2003
California Lawyer, November 2002.

A 2002 piece (reprinted from the San Diego Union-Tribune, it seems) reports that
Gov. Gray Davis has made an election-year gift to the union representing state prison guards - the shutdown of five of California's nine privately run prisons in June and the phasing-out of the rest when their operating contracts expire.

Davis' office denies that the $2.3 million in campaign contributions he received from the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, a public employees union, had anything to do with his suspicious decision - which happened to be buried within the governor's recent budget proposal. But it is hard to see how California will benefit from closing the state's private prisons.

California's 33 prisons remain at nearly 190 percent of capacity, according to the state Department of Corrections. That's despite the fact that the prison population has declined in recent years to 156,000, from a high of 162,000.

The piece says that
When prison construction costs are factored into the overall equation, private correctional facilities are far less costly to California taxpayers than state-run institutions.

The lesser of two corruptions, perhaps.

There's a 1999 Salon piece which reminds us of other essential CCPOA activities:
The acquittal earlier this month of four California corrections officers charged with arranging for a young inmate to be raped by Corcoran State Prison's notorious "Booty Bandit" was the result of a massive legal and political show of force on the part of the state's prison guards union, prisoners' advocates say...

With a pending federal trial and several criminal investigations of prison staff still open, the CCPOA left as little as possible to chance during the state investigation and trial. The union's publication, the Peace Keeper, encouraged rank-and-file members not to trust or speak with the FBI and state investigators. Critics of the union say this and quick intervention by CCPOA lawyers effectively shut down the flow of information at the source.

From the LA Times of November 2003, an op-ed [1] on CCPOA hospitality:
Teppan-yaki feasts, cliff-diving ceremonies at historic Black Rock and mai tais served at a 142-yard swimming pool are some of the festivities awaiting the more than two dozen California state legislators who began arriving today at a Kaanapali Beach resort in Maui for a junket sponsored by California's powerful prison guards union.

Another on Davis' CCPOA payoffs.

A page from the Center on Juvenile & Criminal Justice on the CCPOA, with stats on membership, salaries and the like: the site looks worth a delve.

  1. Must be why the link has lasted this long.


A CJCJ page on the growth in California prisons.

And a page from California Connected looking at ways of cutting the CA corrections budget - which has links and stats. And also the information that just one legislator is in favour of reforming the three strikes law. Let's hear it for Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg!

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