The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

October 13, 2008
One correctional officer's take on the CCPOA pay story

In our line of work you get to know a lot of people. One of the folks we've talked with quite a bit is Ian Pickett, a sergeant at Calipatria State Prison in Imperial County. He's been a bold, thoughtful advocate for his profession, willing to speak openly and on the record about what he likes and doesn't like about the job, CCPOA and leadership by state officials.

We quoted Pickett in our recent CCPOA pay story. Here's his e-mailed assessment of the piece:

Just read your article, not bad but it still leaned a little biased. I dont really blame you for that though, there is just a huge lack of knowledge on the general public's part of what really happens behind those walls.

Many, many Correctional Officers have degrees as well as other sources of higher education. Many of us are in fact high school graduates and just blessed with common sense. Then there are many like myself, veterans (USMC -for me) that went to the military and when getting out found a job that could take care of our families and utilize the skills that we attained in the military, unfortunately, for so many of us the skill that we rely on most, is how to survive in combat.

There are many lower level prisons in the state of California that might not experience the violence against staff like my prison or some of the other level 4's do. But those lower level prisons almost always are the ones that experience riots between hundreds of inmates, I invite anyone to experience either one of those possibilities and question our pay or, for that matter, our dedication to duty, once they see that truth.

It may get old to hear, but I guarantee you it gets older to see your partners beaten, stabbed, have feces and urine thrown on them etc.... sometimes a good paycheck and the ability to take your family and get away, is the only thing that can keep you sane in a job that your surrounded by insanity daily.

But pay is not the only issue that we fight for within our contract (or lack there of). In fact, it is probably at the bottom of everyone's list. We fight for our right to grieve decisions made by administrators that have no correctional experience, that are placed in charge of our department solely because they have that degree that the public feels is so necessary to have, in order to make the money we do. We fight for the right to bargain with local administrators when they decide to cut the staffing of a yard down to dangerous numbers, even more so than they already have. We also fight for the benefits that will be passed onto our family if the day comes that we have to lay down our life for a partner while performing the duties that the state deems necessary.

Thats just the thing. We as Correctional Staff did not invent this job, we were hired to complete a mission that no one wants to do, that no one wants to hear about and no one wants to see. They, just want it done.

In this profession, we get paid for what could happen, not what always does, unfortunately, due to the overcrowding and mentality of some inmates, it happens all too often.

Take care
Ian Pickett

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About The State Worker

Jon Ortiz The Author

Jon Ortiz launched The State Worker blog and a companion column in 2008 to cover state government from the perspective of California government employees. Every day he filters the news through a single question: "What does this mean for state workers?" Join Ortiz for updates and debate on state pay, benefits, pensions, contracts and jobs. Contact him at (916) 321-1043 and at jortiz@sacbee.com.

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