In for life

Joshua Page, a sociology professor at the University of Minnesota, spend his doctoral studies examining the workings of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, usually referred to as the prison guards union. The result is The Toughest Beat: Politics, Punishment, and the Prison Officers Union in California. He covers the history of the CCPOA from its origins as a fraternal organization to the single most powerful union in the state, and documents the effect this development has had on the corrections system. As the union allied with victims’ rights groups and pushed hard for the three-strikes law and other mandatory sentencing, they also aggressively fought prison privatization. The result is a monopoly on a punitive rather than rehabilitative system that is filled beyond capacity and failing to provide basic health care. Page is even-handed in his analysis, and despite being a scholarly work, The Toughest Beat is makes for fascinating reading.