A new contract for correctional officers has been negotiated through the union and approved by Governor Gavin Newsom: $1 billion granted with an approximate of $10,000 per officer as bonuses as a result of prisons closing throughout the state.
The tentative deal for the California Correctional Peace Officers Association is loaded with other incentives that collectively increase compensation for about 26,000 prison guards through a combination of raises, retirement perks and pay differentials for working overnight.
All correctional officers represented by the union known as CCPOA will receive 3% raises this year and next. They'll also gain bonuses of at least $2,400 for health and wellness. Many new cadets will get $5,000 depending on where they work. The $10,000 bonuses will go to correctional officers at Salinas Valley State Prison; California State Prison, Sacramento; and R. J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego.
This financial implantation includes pensions under the California Public Employees' Retirement System to accrue along with the state-funded retirement plan shifted for CO's. It calls on the state to deposit $475 in a 401(k) plan for each permanent, full-time employee in November 2024, and then for the state to put a sum equal to 1% of each officer's base wages into the plan every month beginning in January 2025.
When passed, it will definitely cost over $1 billion for the agreement to be fully effective over the next three years, according to a statement made by the state. By law, the agreement must be approved by the union and Legislature and signed by the governor before it goes into effect.
“The contract discussions are going smoothly, and we have reached a tentative agreement that will first go through our internal process before we comment publicly about the substance of it,” said Glen Stailey, president of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association.
The contract comes as the Newsom administration is trying to cut prison spending in other ways. California's corrections budget runs about $15 billion a year even though the state prison population fell from some 160,000 inmates in 2011 to about 96,000 today. Newsome has closed two prisons and he plans to shut two more by 2025.
There has been a 6 percent decrease in the correctional officers' union while simultaneously as Newsom has taken office, according to a CalMatters analysis of summary collective bargaining agreements since July 2019.
In 2022, The California Department of Human Resources released a compensation survey that made comparisons between prison guard pay and benefits that were in offering for deputy sheriffs for the six largest counties in California. The agencies are comparable, according to the survey, because deputy sheriffs hold similar jobs in the state's county-run jails.
Results from the survey included prison guards in the state to have earned a salary of $110,000 including salary incentives, 10 percent less than what jail deputies make. Putting benefits into the equation, the total compensation for a state prison guard is 23 percent less than in comparison to what jail deputies make.
A representative for the corrections department said the bonuses are part of the state's recruitment and retention plans.
“Overall, we are experiencing challenges in recruitment similar to other law enforcement agencies, coupled with the need to fill jobs in every part of the state,” said Mary Xjimenez, a spokesperson for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. “Our recruitment efforts are extensive and ongoing, with retention bonuses being part of our overall efforts.”
Bonuses for retention purposes towards prison workers of the state range from $2,400 and $5,000, according to the California Department of Human Resources.
According to CalMatters, “The $10,000 differential could go to more than 2,300 correctional officers at the three prisons, according to employee vacancy data from the state controller. New workers at those same three prisons would also be eligible for a relocation bonus.”
From the last update which was July 31st, only about 10 percent of correctional officer positions were not yet filled statewide.
Per prison for example, 22 percent as the vacancy rate for Sacramento State Prison; 4 percent for Donovan, and 7 percent for Salinas Valley.
Three prisons with a vacancy rate of 10% or more and over-filled with prisoners are not included in the retention differential, according to data from the state controller.
Along with this retention differential, this agreement is also pursuing to have a $5,000 transfer bonus for cadets that choose to be employed at a facility once graduated from the academy.
$2,400 would also be included within employees' benefits for mental health services and wellbeing activities including exercising and counseling, according to the agreement. There has not been clarification if employees have to verify their activities.
Bilingual guards will see their pay bonus double to $200 each month, and night shift and weekend pay will increase from $1.50 to $2.50 an hour.
The Newsom administration recently gave additional pay incentives to other state employees working in state prisons. A tentative agreement for about 5,000 state mental health professionals includes $10,000 bonuses for psychologists and clinical social workers, many of whom work in prisons. And a new contract for the union that represents state maintenance workers includes $1,500 bonuses for employees in state prisons.
Last year, as the state prepared to close the Division of Juvenile Justice, the administration agreed to offer hundreds of youth prison workers, including correctional officers, up to $50,000 bonuses to stay on the job. The division closed on July 1, 2023.