Editor's note, April 24, 10:35 a.m.: This post, orginally published on Monday, now includes a comment from the California Correctional Peace Officers' Association.
A plan rolled out today to overhaul the state's penal system includes a big change to how prisons are staffed.
"The Future of California Corrections: A Blueprint to Save Billions of Dollars, End Federal Court Oversight and Improve the Prison System" lays out a plan to centralize and standardize staffing instead of leaving such decisions to each prison as they are now.
The shift is part of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation's effort to slash its costs by $1 billion and eliminate 5,500 positions in 2012-13.
JeVaughn Baker, spokesman for the 29,000-member California Correctional Peace Officers Association, which represents roughly 29,000 prison officers, said the union is evaluating the proposal.
"The total implications of CDCR's staffing plan is yet to be determined but we will continue to thoroughly evaluate the proposal," Baker said in an e-mail. "If the plan is successful at ensuring safe operations inside the institution and our potential concerns are addressed, there may be an opportunity for collaboration with the state in the endeavor."
Until now, a prison's management decided how to allocate staff based on how many inmates a facility housed. California's budget crises forced difficult and disparate decisions.
Some prisons cut correctional officers and other custody staff, which "led to situations at some institutions where general population inmates are no longer let out of their cells due to insufficient custody personnel being available to maintain safe and secure prisons," the CDCR report says.
Others preserved custody jobs and cut support staff. But many of those jobs are vital to keeping facilities up and running and aren't tied to how many inmates a prison is holding: "Further population-driven reductions from plant operations," CDCR says, "would leave the prisons with insufficient staff to maintain the physical plant of the facility."
Now, with the prison population shrinking, the state has a chance to standardize staffing and gain efficiencies from it. A "team of correctional experts" developed the standards for most of the prisons that will be running in 2013-14 when the new staffing plan is supposed to take hold, the report says. Some older institutions still need to be evaluated.
California State Prison, Sacramento, for example, will shed about 66 custody positions and add about 26 health care jobs. In sum, the facility will lose about 29 positions in 2012-13.
Californians to Watch: Matthew Cate directs prison downsizing
The Future of California Corrections (executive summary)
The Future of California Corrections (full report)
Institution Profiles (details the staffing changes at each facility)
Court-ordered targets for California inmate population reduction (includes weekly census)