California prison guards win contract deal worth $1 billion with raises, extra benefits

Michael A. Jones/Sacramento Bee file
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Correctional officers in California’s state prisons are poised to earn more than $1 billion worth of raises, retention bonuses and other perks as part of a new deal bargained between their union and Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration. The high-cost proposal comes as California works to reduce its prison population and closes facilities in the name of lowering prison spending.

The proposed two-year contract for the California Correctional Peace Officers Association comes loaded with financial benefits for the nearly 26,000 guards represented by the union across California’s 33 correctional facilities, according to a summary of the agreement. The California Department of Human Resources estimated the contract will cost more than $1 billion over the course of its lifespan.

All correctional officers will earn a 3% raise retroactive to July 1 of this year and another 3% raise next July. They’ll also earn an annual $1,200 health and wellness stipend, to be paid out in November of this year and next.

Thousands of guards at three “hard-to-keep/hard-to-fill” prisons — including Salinas Valley State Prison, California State Prison, Sacramento, near Folsom and Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego — will receive one-time retention bonuses totaling $10,000. New cadets at 13 facilities will be eligible for a $5,000 relocation bonus if they are required to move 50 or more miles away from their current home address.

“The contract discussions are going smoothly, and we have reached a tentative agreement that will first go through our internal process before we comment publicly about the substance of it,” said union president Glen Stailey in a statement provided by spokesperson Nathan Ballard.

The guards’ union, known as known as CCPOA, also negotiated for additional retirement benefits to supplement each employee’s CalPERS pension. Each worker active as of Nov. 1, 2024, will receive a 401(k), to which the state will make a one-time contribution of $475. Then, starting with the January 2025 pay period, the state will make monthly retirement contributions of 1% of the guards’ monthly base salaries.

Other provisions in the agreement put additional dollars in CCPOA members’ pockets. The deal increases the premium pay for working nights and weekends from an extra $1.50 an hour to $2.50. Bilingual pay was upped from $100 to $200 a month. And workers who perform case workers for parole agents are eligible for a $100-a-month educational bonus if they hold an associate or bachelor’s degree.

The agreement needs ratification from the union’s members, as well as the Legislature, plus a signature from Newsom before it can fully take effect.