Prison Guard Reform In California

Prison guards are the most expensive category of California’s state pension expenditures, which have exploded:

Research recently completed by the State and Local Government Finance Project at the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs calculates that two common sense pension reforms could cut state pension spending by 45 percent while still leaving retirees with hefty pensions. Eg, a mid-career prison officer aged 45 (close to the average age of current active members) at the time of reform would still collect an annual pension of $114,000 at aged 55:

Prison guards have difficult jobs worthy of reasonable compensation but California’s elected officials have a long history of over-compensating them. In addition to rich pensions at early ages, prison guards receive Other Post-Employment Benefits (“OPEB”) costing $1.2 billion in cash and debt per year and — after six increases since 2010 — salaries of $3.7 billion per year. The state even gave them a retroactive pension increase in 1999. The instant that bill was signed, a prison guard with 25 years of service planning to retire the next year saw his annual pension rise from 62.5 percent to 75 percent of his final salary. Today’s programs and taxpayers are bearing the burden of those actions by past elected officials. Absent reform by today’s elected officials, tomorrow’s programs and taxpayers will bear even greater burdens.

It’s long past time for California’s elected officials to launch a new history of reasonable compensation for the state’s prison guards. Govern For California supports lawmakers who serve the general interest.