It's the result of Gov. Jerry Brown's plan that began sentencing some low-level inmates this month to county jails instead of state prison. The move aims to relieve overcrowding as the courts ordered and save the state money.
Due to labor laws and union contracts, warning notices have to be given at least 120 days in advance of an actual layoff. It gives workers an opportunity to transfer or be demoted.
While the layoffs affect almost every job category, prison guards are likely to be affected the most since they are half of the agency's 65,000 workforce.
It's unclear how many of the 26,000 corrections workers will ultimately lose their jobs since the inmate shift has never been tried before.
The prison guards union said the move is unreasonable.
"It is very difficult for a lot of folks to relocate," said Ryan Sherman of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association. "Most people are underwater with their homes. To sell a house you can't even get out from under and go drag your kids out of schools and move across the state, it's a big deal."
The prison guards' union typically has unusual clout under a democratic governor, but tough budget times and a court mandate call for unusual measures.
Groups pushing to lower prison spending said it's time to spend the $10 billion corrections budget on something else.
"We are in a budget crisis. Now is the moment in California that we need to really shift our thinking and move the resources into what people really need," said Emily Harris of Californians United for a Responsible Budget.