California's Corrupt Prison System
“You can tell everything about a society from the state of its prisons.” We’re all familiar with that quote by Tolstoy. America locks up a greater percentage of its population than any other country in the world.
And when it comes to having a corrupt festering prison system, California — supposedly a progressive state — stands head and shoulders above the rest of the country. Murders of prisoners, prison guard brutality cases going unpunished — no other state even comes close.
The prison guards’ union — officially it’s the California Correctional Peace Officers Association — has 31,000 members. They have one of the state’s largest political action committees. They probably have more wealth and more clout than any other organization in California.
They’re completely immune to any outside interference or investigation. For cases of brutality or corruption, they investigate themselves and conclude that everything is just fine.
They have California’s government locked in a scrotal grip. Everyone's scared shitless of them. They’re completely free and unaccountable. Most California politicians would rather give the finger to a Mafia boss than have a conflict with the prison guards’ union.
California’s prison guards are already the highest paid in the country, and they’ve been averaging a 10% pay raise in the past few years. Some of them have 6-figure salaries. Pretty nice package, considering they basically make their own rules and exonerate themselves whenever an “investigation” needs to be simulated.
When Schwarzenegger was running for governor in 2003, he promised to take on the corrupt prison system. Hasn’t happened. Not that it’s his fault — these problems were already festering for a long time.
Schwarzenegger is facing a tough re-election campaign this November, and — like most California politicians — he’s turning to the prison guards’ union for support. The union has a $10 million war chest they were planning to use against him, but apparently he’s neutralized their anger. That’ll be his only chance. It’s political suicide for any California politician to get on the wrong side of the prison guards’ union.
In the 1980s there was a California prisoner who wrote articles for the San Francisco Chronicle. He described life behind bars. He wasn’t whining or complaining or pretending he was innocent, and his articles were an interesting glimpse into the day-to-day lives of prisoners. But at some point the Powers That Be decided that open-ness and publicity didn’t serve any purpose; secrecy was the way to go.
This wall of secrecy and unaccountability is what enables the power and corruption of the California prison guards’ union.
Because of corruption, overcrowding and lack of medical care for inmates, a U.S. district judge has threatened to put California’s entire prison system under federal control. With all due respect to states’ rights, this might be the only solution.
cross-posted at Bring It On!