Undue influence: The power of police and prison guards' unions
Sep 05, 2012
Police officers and prison guards hold tremendous political sway. Their unions support or opposition can make or break a campaign for office. And their advocacy for better pay, more power, and more jobs has been a major factor in the expansion of the prison industrial complex. For decades, they’ve helped build America’s build America’s criminal justice system. Now that system is changing. Can law enforcement unions change as well?
....During its rise to power, the California Correctional and Peace Officers Association, CCPOA, has become a magnet for controversy. The union has gotten a lot of bad press during the past decade. It’s been called ruthless, intimidating, aggressive, and powerful, by its detractors. Supporters praise CCPOA for its strong advocacy on behalf of prison guards. What is undisputed is CCPOA’s key role in the state’s explosive prison expansion.
CCPOA started in 1957 as a small prison guards union. But it wasn’t until 1980, when Don Novey became president, that the union began to resemble the power house it’s become.. Novey was a savvy and ambitious leader and during his tenure, CCPOA’s membership quadroupled; from 7500 in 1985 to over 30,000 today. And coinciding with the union’s rise in power and wealth, was the public’s deep fear of crime in the 80’s and 90’s. Jonathan Simon is a professor of law at U.C. Berkeley and an expert on mass incarceration. He says CCPOA made the strategic decision to join the tough-on-crime bandwagon.