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Suggestions for Reining In Prison Guard Salaries

March 09, 2003

Re "Overtime Pays Off at Prisons" (Feb. 10):

I am sickened by the whole affair of the prison guards' wage and perks packages. I begrudge no working person a decent salary and benefits, but this goes way over the line. To have no control over sick-day call-ins and then to allow them to count toward overtime is indefensible. The 34% increase in wages and its $500 million a year cost to taxpayers is criminal. The entire package is so redolent of the stink of crooked politicians and influence-buying that it is devastating to anyone with a sense of decency. I am ashamed for my beloved state.

But what else to expect from a Legislature whose members implore us to send them to Sacramento to do good work and then charge us $120 a day plus cars and gas, etc., for the electoral victory. That same group of politicians who magnanimously raise the minimum wage to the princely sum of $6.75 per hour while they pay themselves very handsome salaries on top of their "expenses."

The prison-guarding busin-ess should be privatized at once, with oversight boards composed of state employees and private citizens. We would save hundreds of millions of dollars annually as well as being able to prevent cover-ups of sadistic abuses of power on the part of guards or their supervisors.

This could be a measure for the next election, since there isn't enough moral fiber in Sacramento to even suggest such a thing.

Wallace Wood

Costa Mesa

*

Re "Rein In Guards' Overtime" (Editorial, Feb. 17):

Though there is no doubt the prison guards' overtime is out of control, The Times' prescription for correction misses the mark. Few illnesses that require one or two days off from work require a visit to the doctor. Few businesses require a doctor's note after missing work.

No, the major problem is the clause in the contract that allows the guards to get overtime pay for a day in a week in which they have taken a sick day. Who wouldn't take advantage of that? "Sick" Tuesday for a four-day holiday, then overtime pay on Friday, as Saturday was a scheduled day. Wow!

Another issue that needs to be addressed is that the state's right to monitor and discipline guards for excessive absences was eliminated. That added to the free overtime is an invitation to abuse.

The budget deficit really has nothing to do with it. Those are abusive clauses in the prison guards' contract and must be corrected as soon as possible.

Patricia A. Fyler

Brea

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