Is the deplorable state of California’s prisons, which has now been underscored by a Supreme Court decision ordering the state to release almost a quarter of its prisoners, the fault of the state prison guards union? 

Orange County Federalist Society vice president Tim Kowal says yes, in a long and abundantly documented post at League of Ordinary Gentlemen. After describing the decline of the Golden State prison system from “envy of the nation” to crumbling institution, Kowal explains how the California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA) helped bring the lousy: 

The CCPOA has played a significant role in advocating pro-incarceration policies and opposing pro-rehabilitative policies in California. In 1980, CCPOA’s 5,600 members earned about $21,000 a year and paid dues of about $35 a month. After the rapid expansion of the prison population beginning in the 1980s, CCPOA’s 33,000 members today earn approximately $73,000 and pay monthly dues of about $80. These dues raise approximately $23 million each year, of which the CCPOA allocates approximately $8 million to lobbying. As [author Joan] Petersilia explains, “The formula is simple: more prisoners lead to more prisons; more prisons require more guards; more guards means more dues-paying members and fund-raising capability; and fund-raising, of course, translates into political influence.”

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