The conservative approach to criminal justice:
fighting crime, supporting victims, and protecting taxpayers.

George Will on Prison Costs

| May 20, 2011

George Will’s new column is about public sector employee unions in California, and it begins with this note about the state’s infamous prison guard union:

Pausing in his struggle to solve, or to get others to solve, today’s iteration of California’s recurring fiscal crisis, Jerry Brown, the recurring governor, recently approved a new contract for the prison guards union. Henceforth, guards can cash out at retirement an unlimited number of unused vacation days. Most California employees can monetize only 80 accrued days. Many guards will receive lump sums exceeding $100,000. The Legislative Analyst’s Office estimates that guards possess time worth $600 million. The union contributed almost $2 million to Brown’s 2010 campaign.

In 1980, according to former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, 10 percent of the state’s general fund went to higher education and 3 percent to prisons; in 2010, almost 11 percent went to prisons and 7.5 percent to higher education. The national average incarceration cost is $29,000 per inmate per year. California’s cost is $49,000, about $7,000 more than a year’s tuition at Dartmouth.

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