California Prison Violations Trigger Wage War Leading To $822,000 Salary For Prison Doctor

140px-Seal_of_the_Calirfornia_Department_of_Corrections_and_RehabilitationMohammad Safi appears to have found the American dream. In 2006, Safi graduated from a medical school in Afghanistan. He then came to the United States and began working as a psychiatrist at a California mental hospital. By 2010, he made $822,302. As California struggles with this economic crisis and shuts down needed social programs, the state is still paying absurd annual salaries like Safi’s. His windfall is due entirely to the failure of the correctional department to meet minimal standards of care for prisoners. The state waited to be ordered to meet mental health standards before having to go into a bidding process to quickly secure such doctors. This set off an instant wage war with the mental health department, which had to bid higher for its doctors. The result? Some 16 California psychiatrists, including Safi, made more than $400,000

In comparison, a review of the 11 other most populous states had only one doctor with this level of compensation. Indeed, Safi’s compensation was almost five times as much as Governor Jerry Brown’s last year.

What is also striking is that Safi was paid for an average of almost 17 hours each day including Saturdays and Sundays.

Once again, there is little attention to the failure of the Department of Corrections that led to the court order triggering this wage race. Had the Department met basic standards rather than litigate the question, a gradual process could have resulted in recruitment at a lower cost.

Notably, the average salary from 2005 to 2008 for California’s government-employed psychiatrists rose 58 percent to $251,060. In 2006, when he worked half a year, Safi earned $90,682. In 2008, he worked a full year of state employment for $236,108.

Last year, Safi held a fixed salary of $273,950, but earned $548,352 in extra-duty pay from 3,990 additional hours at the prison mental-health facility in Soledad prison.

He is not alone. Husband-and-wife psychiatrists Joginder Singh and Mohinder Kaur earned a total of $4.7 million from 2005 through 2011

It is common for politicians to wait for courts to order reforms to avoid blame for added costs — even though those costs are higher due to the delay and the need to meet court ordered standards. This is an example of the complexity of the cause-and-effect of such constitutional violations. While people may be upset about the salaries, it is hard to get the public to understand that these absurd salaries were triggered by their own state officials violating minimal constitutional standard for confinement.

Source: Bloomberg

27 thoughts on “California Prison Violations Trigger Wage War Leading To $822,000 Salary For Prison Doctor”

  1. These shrinks have gamed the system, but the system asked for everything that they got. We do need to stop putting sick people in prison! Take the drug cases out and the prisins would have a lot of room.

  2. Wow, 3990 additional hours. That’s about 15 extra hours a day, five days a week for 52 weeks. Maybe they should have hired forensic auditors instead. I can’t see the guy working 20+ hours, I call BS.

  3. The author seems to be blaming the victims (public) – as though if the public
    understood how their state officials operate, this kind of problem wouldn’t happen.

    Sounds to me like some a Republican would say.

  4. “3,990 additional hours”?!?!?! I don’t think so. If that isn’t a red flag for fraud I don’t know what is.
    Investigate, terminate, sue, recover, recruit new talent at a rate more consistent with the market.
    Oh, and let’s not forget to fire all of those who should have been managing this mess.

  5. I used to do GED testing in a county jail once a month. Inmates were never a problem that I couldn’t handle quite easily but some of the older COs were among the most disrespectful people I’ve run across. The testing room had a wall of windows. These COs would stand outside talking, causing distractions for the test takers, and make disparaging comments while staring at them (“monkeys in a cage” when testing a roomful of Black young men). My CO liaison had the job of trying to get them to stop talking there. It worked only when he was in the immediate vicinity. So glad I don’t do that anymore.

  6. * nb – obviously psychiatrists in the California system get paid well, hardly related to any direct benefit (at least as concerns that ‘overtime’ billing)

  7. OT, here’s another unpleasant truth. The judicial system, courts, prosecutors, probation/parole use the mental health system as the punishment of last resort. They want to use the MH system as the dumping ground for things they choose not to deal with. Particularly in the area of substance abuse related offenses.

    But, curiously, they don’t provided sufficient resources, or any, when they dump. (partly, no one has money). Even though they mandate offenders to treatment. But more frustrating is the lack of support and follow through by most judicial entities on the recommendations of MH professionals.

  8. My guess would the the CA legislature could not agree on a budget allowing minimal standards to be met. This for the reason of saving money. In the end, of course no pun intended, it bit them.

  9. I have a friend who is the shrink for the Federal Prison in Oxford, Wi. That’s where Dan Rostenkowski served his time. He makes ~$120k. With successful shrinks fleeing France and some coming here the wages should be pushed downward. Being a shrink in a prison is a tough job, but not 800k tough. Safi does deserve more pay than Gov. Moonbeam, but twice as much would seem right to me.

  10. Whether it be California Depart of Corrections, police/sherfiff departments, NSA, FBI, Homeland Security or any other component of the security state apparatus, they all share several commonalities. First, they are incredibly expensive. Second, they are politically well connected and exert powerful influence on public policy. Third, they are maintaining their funding by successfuly manipulating the public to be ever more fearful and to believe that they and their heroic actions are going to make us all safe.

    California once had the greatest system of higher education ever created. The state now spends much more on prisons than it does on universities. Three strikes laws, the recently defeated initative to eliminate the death penalty seem to indicate that the publics appetite for wasteful spending on public safety issues hasn’t yet reached its peak.

    No politician has ever lost an election running on a platform that they are “tough on crime”. I’m sure that some have lost elections by failing to adequately demagog on the tough on crime issue. Some of us older people may remember Dukakis flunking the test when he was asked the; If your wife kitty was raped and murdered, would you still be against the death penalty?

    As a society, we need to be less fearful. There never has and never will be a guarantee that some tragic event won’t afflict you or your loved ones. We need to toughen up a bit and decide that a big chunk of the money spent on public safety issues is being spent to sustain an apparatus that is too big and too expensive. A citizen is every bit as likely to intervene in a situation an perform a heroic act to ensure someones safety as is a law enforcement officer. A lot of the contributing causes for conduct that create risks to public safety are very likely the fact that there is a huge deficiency in funding for a niche other than enforcement and corrections that is being eliminated or starved for funding.

    Please don’t get the impression that I am suggesting that we don’t need law enforcement and prisons. We all know that we do. The issue is how extravagantly fat these industries have become and how they have spun their way into being politically untouchable. I just believe that it is time to demand honest discourse and action by our elected officials on the costs of public safety spending. It is time they shoulder some of the hogs away from the trough. Instead i see the politicians cultivating relationships and legislating to accomodate increasing growth in the private prison industry. Prisons for profit, how American is that?

  11. “There wasn’t a lot of difference between many of the guards and inmates.”


    You noticed that, did you? I had more problems with the director of the mental health and medical facility than I did from any of the inmates. I have met lazy before, but they saved up crap they did not want to take care of to dump on me the two times a week I went up there. There were several instances when I did not get finished until 11:00 at night.

  12. Hey OS, I’ve done some jail and prison works as well. There wasn’t a lot of difference between many of the guards and inmates. Unfortunately I didn’t have the luxury of choosing my venue, but fortunately it was a pretty limited part of my caseload. There aren’t too many jobs at $800k/yr that I couldn’t tolerate for a year or two I’d venture 😉

  13. I have worked in prison settings. I quit doing that kind of work because I am not a masochist. It would take that kind of money to entice me to go back.

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