Recession-wracked Michigan is looking west to its poor sister – California – for a budget boost. Prison officials in California are headed east next month to explore a deal from Gov. Jennifer Granholm to lease prison beds to the Golden State. If it pencils out, Michigan could become the fifth state to take California inmates. Private prisons in Tennessee, Arizona, Mississippi and Oklahoma house about 7,600 California inmates.
Given California's exorbitant prison costs and budget woes, this seems like a sensible proposal to explore. In fact, Florida state policymakers recently gave themselves the same option to utilize out-of-state inmate management.
On the SacBee blog, one commenter offered some advice for California that may be worth taking:
Take the offer CA. Sign up now, and ship the criminals before the Prison Guard Union has their puppets pass a bill to make it illegal.
Indeed. Prison guards are California's largest personnel expense, and their unions lead the charge to prevent private competition for their jobs. They fight tooth-and-nail for taxpayer money in the form of higher salaries and gold-plated pension benefits that are far more lavish than most in the private sector receive. These inflated personnel costs are a major reason taxpayers pay roughly $45,000 a year to house each inmate (the highest among the 50 states).
When looking at the billions in California prison spending it is very easy to see why government prison guards earning $73,000 a year—plus tens of thousands in overtime, plus outstanding health benefits, plus amazing retirement benefits—wouldn't want to face competition from private prisons.
The guards and unions have a great gig going. Unfortunately that gig is appallingly expensive for taxpayers.