While many state programs have been slated for budget cuts, prison budgets, driven in large part by high base salaries and excessive overtime, have virtually exploded. In 1980 the CDC budget was $300 million; by 1995 the proposed budget was $3.7 billion, a 1,141% increase. The CDC had 7,570 guards in its employ in 1985, by 1995 that number had tripled to about 22,000. California guards start out earning $24,012 a year. Within seven years they earn $46,044 a year. Lieutenants make $59,628 a year, far more than comparable ranks in the state highway patrol which has higher training and educational requirements.
State Department of Personnel chief, David Tirapelle, states that overtime is cheaper than hiring more guards where benefits and retirement packages can total up to 35% of a person's salary. Bernie Orozco, a consultant to the legislature's prison operations committee stated that after a recent visit to the Pelican Bay prison he saw an armed guard in the prison's segregation unit who "looked horrible" after working more than 16 straight hours. While politicians want to charge prisoners a few dollars to seek medical care or use other basic amenities, hundreds of millions of dollars are being squandered without a word of complaint on exorbitantly paid staff. Staffing costs take up around 75% of the operating costs of most prisons. [For additional information on this topic see the March, 1995, PLN. Copies are available for $1.00]
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