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CDCR Cannot Avoid Paying Officers in Training

In a case of purely statutory construction, the Fourth District Court of Appeal held in June 2011 that Penal Code § 13602, subd. (a), authorizes California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) employment training for correctional peace officers at its academies in Galt and Stockton, California, but nowhere else.

The controversy arose after CDCR, in 2006, initiated a pilot program to provide basic correctional officer training to students at three colleges: Fresno City College, Napa Valley College, and Santa Rosa Junior College. Significantly, CDCR did not employ the students enrolled in these programs, pay them a wage, or provide them with housing. The students not only had to provide their own housing, but also pay tuition to attend the training program.

By contrast, CDCR employs the cadets who participate in basic training at the Galt and Stockton academies, pays them a wage, and provides for their housing (in dormitories on campus) while they attend the academies.

The California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA) filed suit in 2006, challenging the lawfulness of CDCR's community college pilot program. While the complaint alleged that the program violated Penal Code § 13602, subd. (a), no doubt CCPOA was motivated by the fact that its members - at least, those who received their basic training through CDCR's pilot program -- had been (unlawfully) deprived of wages and forced to bear expenses (for example, for housing) that CDCR itself should have borne.

The trial court ruled against CCPOA. But on appeal the Fourth District, noting that the statutory language was ambiguous, examined § 1302's legislative history and concluded that "the Legislature, in adopting the statute's latest version, intended to grant CDCR the authority to use both Galt and Stockton academies, but nothing more." See: CCPOA v. Tilton, 196 Cal.App.4th 91 (2011).

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Related legal case

CCPOA v. Tilton