U-T San Diego — California’s realignment program, which moved thousands of state inmates to county jails, helped push prison populations down — but it didn’t lower the cost of paying guards and other correctional staff.
Overtime hit a six-year high last year, allowing hundreds of prison system employees to more than double their pay. That’s created a situation in which more than a third of officers make more than $100,000 a year.
The payroll costs for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation have grown $248 million per year higher than they were in 2009, a 5.3 percent increase. During the same period, the population under supervision fell 38 percent.
Corrections staffing has been reduced, to 61,500 from a six-year high of 68,500 in 2009. Overtime pay for those remaining has ticked up, to a six-year high of $574.6 million last year.
In its 2012 blueprint for change, the prison system pledged not only to cut the non-violent inmate population under realignment, but also to rein in the system’s unwieldy budget.
“If you look at it simplistically, people may presume if you reduce the inmate population, you will reduce costs, but the purpose of the blueprint and the purpose of the court’s recommendation to us is to reduce the population as a means to other ends — to increase mental health care, medical care, rehabilitation and education,” said Bill Sessa, a spokesman for the corrections department. continue reading...