Wednesday, June 3, 2009

CCPOA Fights the Layoffs Using a Public Opinion Poll

In order to fight the 3,600 anticipated job cuts, CCPOA launches a statewide poll, whose findings they present on their website. They report that "[w]hile some recent polls have found initial support for cuts, our poll probed deeper to learn that voters want to cut the fat, not the muscle."

Among their findings, as cited from the poll:
  • 54% do not want to cut the pay and benefits for correctional officers
  • 65% do not want to lay off correctional officers
  • 62% support reducing the growth of administration costs in corrections
  • 63% support eliminating the 400 planners hired under the Governor’s doomed prison reform legislation who have been spending millions planning for prisons that have not been built nor will they be built for decades
The poll, while representing CCPOA's mobilization (and understandable desperation) to fight the cuts, seems to have been framed and conducted in a way that undermines any conclusions to be drawn from the results. I am unclear on whether the quotes above the pie charts in the diagrams are the questions asked on the poll. If they are, they have been articulated in a non-neutral way that has probably contributed to yielding these particular results ("“California has one of the worst inmate to correctional officer ratios in the nation. Laying off officers in our prisons will make prisons more violent and will increase the number of assaults on the remaining officers. We should not cut the number of officers in our prisons as a way to save money.”) Also, it doesn't seem to be the case that respondents have been offered the choice of other cuts, such as rehabilitative programs, parole, or re-entry. As much of the new research on public punitiveness suggests, when the public is offered such options, it becomes far less punitive. Read all about it in this fabulous book, edited by Julian Roberts et al. This sort of research needs to be done carefully and thoughtfully, and I would encourage lawmakers in Sacramento not to take this particular poll results seriously when making decisions regarding the budget cuts. There may be excellent reasons not to lay off so many prison guards, but this poll is not one of them.

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