The Toughest Beat: Politics, Punishment, and the Prison Officers Union in California

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joshua pageRecent demonstrations by thousands of Cal State University students and faculty against budget cuts are indicative of the fiscal dire straits California is in. Central to Governor Jerry Brown’s state budget are serious funding cuts in education, social services, and other crucial services. But while the Governor has been busy conveying the message of “painful but necessary” cuts, he sent a very different message to one particular union of state employees: the prison guards union. The California Correctional Peace Officers Association, is one of the most powerful political forces in the state, and in fact the country, whose members work in the U.S.’s largest prison system. In fact California’s prison system is bigger than the federal correctional system, as well as the entire prison systems of France and Germany combined. At a rally organized by CCPOA last Monday at which Jerry Brown spoke, he went as far as to push the crowd to lobby for more money for prisons. Even though a new contract with the union has prison guards furloughed once a month and contributing a bit more to their retirement plans, they won greater contributions to their health insurance premiums, and salary increases for senior staff. The CCPOA has long been considered one of the most important drivers of prison growth in California. But just how did that happen? Chronicling the connection between the potent influence of the CCPOA and the massive growth of California’s prison system is a new book by Joshua Page called ‘The Toughest Beat: Politics, Punishment, and the Prison Officers Union in California.’

GUEST: Joshua Page, Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Minnesota

Find out more about the book at:



2 thoughts on “The Toughest Beat: Politics, Punishment, and the Prison Officers Union in California


    Governor Brown is lobbying for funding to support his parole realignment plan, not for the prison guards. As you know he is unable to go forward with his parole realignment plans without additional $$$$$.

    It is also important to note that should parole realignment plans go forward the CCPOA will suffer a loss in membership due to the layoffs of Parole Agents.


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