MetroNews staff photo

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Last year, state Regional Jail Authority Director Joe Delong told state lawmakers he could cut his budget by hiring more correctional officers. The idea seemed illogical, but Delong was adamant it would work because the jobs in the jail system are unique.

“The premise is to reduce mandatory overtime and by doing so reduce burnout,” Delong said. “We are currently turning over our correctional officer staff at 50 percent annually.”

The cost of the turnover is substantial. When one officer quits another is forced into expensive overtime to fill the spot. The overworked officer soon gets exhausted and leaves. The overtime pay coupled with the cost of training a replacement is substantial.

However, the increased staffing effort was implemented on a small scale at the Southern Regional Jail in Raleigh County and full scale at Kanawha County’s South Central Regional Jail.

“In the last six months we’ve been able to reduce mandatory overtime for correctional officers by 32,000 hours,” he said. “That’s only really at one jail because we’ve been unrolling this a little at a time.”

Delong projects once the increased staffing levels are spread system wide the savings will amount to about four Million dollars annually. He wants to use a portion of the savings to support the program.

“We would like to take a portion of that four Million, money we have captured through efficiencies, and reinvest that into higher salaries in our staff,” said Delong. “By doing business better and reinvesting that money in our staff we can continue to create substantial savings.”

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  • steve

    Guard is what you find on a football or basketball team.

  • Independent View

    The problem of low pay for correctional officers is not unique to WV, it is a problem in a majority of the 50 states. Historically, correctional officers suffer from low pay. Why? Are correctional officers any less important than police officers? Police can arrest criminals, but there has to be a system in place to incarcerate them.
    Where there is low pay, typically, there is low morale. Low morale can lead to mistreatment of prisoners and a deluge of lawsuits, many frivilous ones are brought by inmates and the state is forced to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars defending the correctional officers and the correctional facilities.
    Better pay and benefits=better employees and fewer problems.

  • the truth

    The problem is that from Manchin to Tomblin regular state employees have been treated like dirt. Since Manchin and now Tomblin have been in office they use employees as whipping boys to get votes. It may seem like a smart thing to "control costs" but when you give your employees no hope of a pay raise for quality work you just breed mediocrity and high turnover. Both Manchin and Tomblin have forbid raises based on merit. I presume you have to be a inner circle crony to get a raise in this state. Now with the hiring freeze the last pathway to a raise by job hopping cannot happen. You will now just lose the employee and will have the constant turnover and crisis that face most state agencies. Tomblin is aware that many state agencies are being run into the ground but just turns a blind eye and refuses to make real changes to keep qualified staff. Any employee worth a nickel wants a merit based system and not the crumbs such as the 504.00 proposed.

    • bulldog95


    • Aaron

      My friend who works at the state and we were discussing gym membership. She was telling me that for $20 a month she gets gym membership to any of a number any of a number gym's, access to a personal nutritionist, and 1.5 hours per week of direct supervision with personal training.

      That's one of many entitlements that State employees have. The combined benefits as part of the state's total compensation package is why she left her position in private industry to take a job with the state at a $.50 an hour less.

      There's your truth.

      As far as this story goes, I agree that savings should be put back into the salaries of correctional officers but I also need to believe we look at who were putting in jail, glad they are they are.

      How many people would we free, and how much money would we save as a result of freeing those individuals simply by legalizing marijuana?

      • Gadfly

        Here is your truth! Your friend doesn't get the $20 membership, personal nutritionist and 1.5 hours per week of direct supervision with personal training as an entitlement. The service is part of PEIA Insurance and you have to qualify for the service. You qualify if you are deemed overweight. If your weight is in the healthy range, for a man a waist circumference of less than 40 inches for a women less than 35 inches, you do not qualify and don’t get the service.

        • Aaron

          I'd have to disagree on the qualifications as the lady I know getting it is 5'3, weighs in the 140 pound area and wears her son's size 32 jeans often. At any rate, whether or not it is available to all employees, I don't think you can deny it is a benefit that state workers enjoy and that it is eventually by taxpayers.

          I understand that many jobs in state government may not pay very well but the overall compensation package is very competitive to private industry. Where in the real world does an employee start at 15 vacation days, get a minimum of 12 paid holidays and qualify for 18 sick days? Right off the bat, your work year is not 10 months. How many state workers factor that into their pay?

          • Teufel

            Agree, and if state workers aren't happy with their compensation package then by all means try the private sector out. - Good luck

      • Where?

        I work for a state agency and I've never been told about this gym membership deal.

    • zero tolerance

      $504 divided by 24 pay periods = $21

      $21x70%(AVG take home percentage) = $14.70 increase per paycheck

      $14.70 divided by 86.7 hours per pay period = 0.16 CENTS/hr

      And they call this a RAISE!

      CRUMBS is the exact description!

    • Common Sense

      I agree 110%. It's only the top 5% of salaried employees in my agency that keep getting raises while the rest of us MAY get the $504.00 this year that will be taken by PEIA next year. The merit raises we given unfairly in some of my divisions but with better oversight that would not happen. I agree that most of our employees would like to see it come back though. I do choose to work for the State but I would like to see us get a Govenor that really cared a little more for State employees and a little less for thier cronies and donors....fat chance huh.