Newsom, Unions Eye $50k Bonuses For Juvenile Prison Workers

As the state prepares to close its youth prisons, workers for the Division of Juvenile Justice could receive up to $50,000 bonuses to stay on the job until then, CalMatters has learned.

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If approved, the bonus appears to be among the largest offered by the state to retain a group of employees. 

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration and at least six unions are negotiating the pay bumps, hoping the large incentives will keep the youth facilities staffed until their June 30, 2023, closures. 

Since Newsom announced closure plans, employees have started leaving the division for new jobs, fueling a worker shortage. 

Under a draft plan obtained by CalMatters, direct care employees — youth prison guards, plumbers, teachers and chaplains  —  are among the hundreds of Division of Juvenile Justice employees who’d receive up to $50,000 in additional pay. Non-direct care employees, who mostly work for headquarters in Sacramento — deputy directors, executive assistants and nursing consultants, for instance — could receive up to $25,000. 

Past retention bonuses for state prison workers have typically hovered between $2,400 and $5,000, according to documents on the California Department of Human Resources’ website.

“Negotiations are still active on this topic, we do not comment on active labor negotiations,” wrote CalHR spokesperson Camille Travis in an email response to CalMatters. “Once the negotiations are completed, the agreements will be posted to the CalHR website.”

According to the State Controller’s Office, 775 people worked at youth facilities as of Jan. 31, 2022. If all of them qualify for the full lump sum, it could cost California more than $38 million. By law, if the agreement is more than $1 million in net costs, the Legislature would have to approve it. 

All of the unions representing youth corrections employees in the bonus negotiations donated to stop Newsom from being recalled in last year’s election. The largest contributor was the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, which gave $1.75 million, according to the Secretary of State’s website.

The governor’s office did not respond Wednesday to a request for comment, with a spokesperson citing ongoing negotiations.

This is the second time in two years the state has proposed bonuses for juvenile justice employees. Last year, the state offered a limited group of employees $5,000 annually, which totaled $12,500 if employees stuck around. The new proposal would sweeten the deal, extending the bonuses to more Division of Juvenile Justice workers and quadrupling the maximum amount. 

The taxable bonuses would be prorated, according to the draft agreement. 

The Division of Juvenile Justice employees would be eligible for all or part of the proposed bonuses, said agency spokesperson Mike Sicilia in an email to CalMatters. 

Click here to read the full article at CalMatters

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