This letter is in response to one submitted on March 8 by Mrs. Diane Blair of Antioch. I was deeply saddened by her comments regarding the overcompensated California “prison guards.” Those comments clearly demonstrate how much more work we (CCPOA members) must do to ensure that the public understands our role and responsibilities along with the realities of our working environment.
One thing that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has failed to do is open our doors and let the world see what we experience. I urge Mrs. Blair to take a tour of San Quentin State Prison. I also urge her to bring her husband and other retired or active peace officers on that trip. Get a firsthand look behind the curtain.
Our starting salary in the Correctional Academy is a mere $3,000 per month for 16 weeks. This jumps to approximately $3,900 upon arrival to your institution. With the state furloughs, many did not see a raise for over one year. It takes approximately seven years to reach top step in salary, which is currently $6,144 per month. Considering most agencies pay anywhere from $4,000 to $5,000 during the academy, it is very difficult for me to grasp the concept that we are overpaid.
Our benefits are in line with most other departments. We have 3 percent at 50 Calpers retirement, paid medical, dental and vision plans and optional 401 and 457 plans. We pay a portion of retirement, medical, dental and vision. Soon, we will probably see a shift to a lower retirement plan for new hires, which again, is in line with the direction of other departments.
What do we do to earn this great salary and benefits, you ask? Upon review of my most recent Peace Keeper periodical (a CCPOA publication) I have discovered the following for the month of January, 2012: 10 incidents of battery on a peace officer, 20 incidents of battery on a peace officer (with injuries), one incident of assault with a deadly weapon on a peace officer, and six riots (the smallest involved approximately 16 inmates and the largest involved approximately 300 inmates).
One great lieutenant that recently retired was assaulted over 300 times in his career, including being stabbed numerous times and shot once. In Southern California, a parole agent was recently shot in the face while attempting to apprehend an at-large parolee. I have lost count of how many others have been assaulted during my short time in this department.
It might be interesting to you to know of the great work being done by other members of my department. We also have special agents, tactical teams (SWAT), hostage-negotiation teams, K-9 units, fugitive-apprehension teams, gang units and other specialized personnel within our organization. These all fall under the title of correctional peace officers.
Our efforts to safely house and rehabilitate inmates along with our additional mission objectives to minimize crime in our prisons and communities most often go unheralded. We shall continue our efforts each day regardless of the circumstances.
Ches H. Fry, Antioch