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California Corrections Standards Authority Chided by Inspector General for Failure to Develop Prison Guard Selection and Training Standards

The California Inspector General (IG) reviewed progress in October, 2006 on his seven earlier (2005) recommendations to the 19-member Corrections Standards Authority pertaining to development of selection and training standards for prison guards, and found that only two had been partially accomplished. The IG found that the responsible agency, the Commission on Correctional Peace Officer Standards and Training (?Commission?), had been so deficient in its performance that the guard apprenticeship program, which depends in part on federal funds, was in danger of being decertified.

In his 2005 report, the IG had determined that the Commission failed its key function of setting prison guard training and selections standards because the executive board had not met for one year. Worse yet, the Commission?s inaction imperiled continued certification due to non-compliance with state and federal apprenticeship program standards. The IG expressly found that the Commission?s independence had been undermined by influence from the prison guards union (CCPOA). Finally, the Commission?s membership structure, prone to voting-deadlocks, caused institutional paralysis.

In 2004, the Governor?s blue-ribbon Independent Review Panel labeled the guard?s apprenticeship program a ?paper shuffle nightmare? and recommended it be eliminated in favor of a field training program.
Nonetheless, ?institutional paralysis? continues today in the form of 4,000 vacant prison guard positions in California. Hope for near-term relief is dim, with the Commission projecting completion of its standards only by December 2008. In the meanwhile, existing prison guards are enjoying unprecedented overtime pay, but suffering burnout.

As a result of the 2006 follow-up review, the IG made three new recommendations to the Commission: (1) that the [$98,000/yr.] Commission members regularly attend their meetings; (2) that they expedite the December 2008 projected completion date; (3) that they continue to develop and monitor established training standards. Another three recommendations fell to the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR): (1) gain the resources needed to bring the apprenticeship program into compliance with state standards; (2) establish a functional appeals grievance committee; (3) develop an internal apprenticeship-training audit function and employ it regularly.

While the Commission?s reorganization in 2006 hypothetically resolved the prior deadlock problems, only 13 of its 19 authorized members had been appointed by the Governor, leaving quorums (10 members) still difficult to obtain. The actual work of setting apprenticeship standards had been subcontracted to California State University for $382,000, which has the December 2008 completion deadline. Meanwhile, prison guard recruitment will predictably continue to flag behind retirements, unless (1) threatened federal court prison population caps (reducing CDCR population from 172,000 to 100,000 to obtain constitutional prisoner health and psychological care) ?save the day? by reducing the number of guard positions, or (2) a threatened total seizure of CDCR by the federal courts comes to pass. See: Office of the Inspector General, Follow-Up Review Of Recommendations Pertaining To The Former Commission On Correctional Peace Officer Standards And Training, October 2006.

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