CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state Division of Corrections shelled out $5.3 million in overtime to nearly 1,500 correctional officers last budget year an auditor from the Legislative Auditor’s Office told state lawmakers Monday.

Senior Auditor Kristina Taylor said much of the overtime was mandatory and has played a role in the large number of job vacancies in the state prison system possibly putting the system at risk.

“Overworked staff, inexperienced correctional officers and increased vacancies may result in a significant increase in the liabilities and the risks at the facilities,” Taylor read from her report.

The numbers back up what state Corrections Commissioner Jim Rubenstein has said for several months. Rubenstein is asking state lawmakers to increase correctional officers’ salaries by $2,000 and starting salaries by $2,000. Taylor said that would cost approximately $2.2 million, which is less than the overtime paid last year.

There are currently 205 correctional officer vacancies in the prison system, most of those at Mount Olive and Huttonsville. The division has shifted employees from prison to prison to help cover certain shifts.

“It’s alarming right now for the Division of Corrections. We are wearing people out,” Commissioner Rubenstein told lawmakers last month. “We’re shifting folks from facilities that are not fully staffed but are better staffed than some.”

Rubenstein’s proposal would create a better starting salary, longevity pay beginning in the second year of employment and beyond, automatic pay increases from year two to year five and promote a corrections officer to the rank of cpl. after eight years.

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  • Mitch

    Higher standards placed on correctional officers? This is the kind of attitude that creates divisions and animosity between co-workers who should all be working together as a single team. Yes, some left uniform to get away from the excessive hours and overtime -but they did so knowing that they would still be pulling their share of security-post duties because of the shortages. In many other cases however, the move to non-uniform positions was the only option available to move up a pay-grade or two. Perhaps at "Vet's" location it isn't the case, but at other facilities non-uniform staff ARE included on mandatory overtime lists.

  • Mitch

    In response to excluding "non-uniform" staff from a proposed pay raise I have this to say. Non-uniform staff play as much of an integral part in ensuring daily operations, security, and safety is maintained within the DOC facilities. This includes those without "Corrections" in their job title. In many cases you are finding Maintenance workers, Storekeepers, even Office Assistants working security positions. They absolutely should be included. Take the Office Assistant as an example. These people are required to attend, and successfully complete, the DOC's Basic Training Academy, undergoing all the same training as a uniformed Correctional Officer with the exception of firearms training. This means they too are trained in first aid, CPR, self-defense, etc. - not just in Basic Training but annually as well. And why? Because they too work in a setting in which they have daily contact and interaction with convicted felons. Security at the DOC facilities is the responsibility of ALL employees, not just those in uniform; therefore ALL employees should be recognized for this. But a pay increase is simply not enough - ask most DOC employees and they will tell you that with each pay increase their "net" is actually lower than before; primarily due to increased taxes as well as increased deductions by the wonderful PEIA who by the way have scheduled massive increases, with reduced benefits, for this coming July 1st. (and this affects all WV employees - not just those in the DOC). The DOC is trying to do what it can to reduce the overtime and demands - to include using "temporary" employees, with 2 or 3 days of "training" before they are assigned to fill security positions. A safe practice? Absolutely not, but one that unfortunately has become necessary. Yes salary increases will be a great start, after all, DOC salaries are well below those of neighboring states and the Federal DOC system as well - with some employees actually qualifying for welfare assistance. But salary increases are only a start in "fixing" the system.

  • corrections vet

    now that's funny-there may be a hand few-nowhere near keeping it a float

  • Correctional Truth

    You must not have a clue because non uniform staff are keeping these places running I know some people who are working 80hrs or more and Officers who go home because of them so you have no clue of what you are talking about DOC has no standards thats why things have gone downhill , coruption and being treated like crap money won't solve this problem , Leadership will.

  • vashti

    i think you are jaded Jim. There are good and bad teachers just liek there are good and bad employees anywhere.

  • vashti

    since the proposed raise is less than what they are paying in overtime your comment seems to be in error

  • Lostboy

    Well said. If they want the money, there are plenty of uniform positions available to move in to and get it. As long as nights, weekends and holidays aren't a problem.

  • the truth

    This issue is in every regular state agency. If you follow the news you will see the state hospitals being sued because of lack of staff, crime lab being sued because they demoted an employee for speaking about the employee shortage. The DNR not having the ability to hire people due to the low pay. This is just in the past year. Regular state employees have become the whipping boy for politicians to say we are keeping cost in control. The problem is that you have every baby boomer retiring as soon as possible due every agency is just run down to nothing staff and management wise. Then you recruit new people and want to pay them nothing. They stay for a short period because many times you cannot live or raise a family on the salary. They leave and you have the endless cycle of bringing people in and they leave in a short period of time. I see no reason for a new person to come work for the state. Low Pay, no advancement unless you job hop, crummy management due to having no one left with experience to manage is all reasons to stay away.

  • Corrections Vet

    Let's remove non-uniform staff from the pay raise. We are short correctional officers, not counselors, etc. Most non-uniform staff left the uniform because of the overtime and higher standards placed on correctional officers. That would save on the overall $$$ amount. If they want to be included, add them to mandatory overtime list, thus reducing the hours that correctional officers must face.

  • WhlgFeelin

    I think you truly are blind to our current judicial system. Can you really confirm a prison incarceration for only marijuana or a traffic offense?

  • the truth

    Now it is just for the friends of Earl Ray.

  • Fred

    Reserve the jails for violent offenders. Immediately release anyone incarcerated for traffic offenses or marijuana.

  • wvu999

    Merit pay was a joke.
    Friends and family raise

  • Cam

    Thank Manchin he did away merit pay for WV state workers . Democrats have failed state workers . Give the Republicans a chance.

  • Longbeards

    Randy is exactly right......

  • bandit

    Am not opposed to them getting a pay raise. I think they deserve it. So why don't you and Thom take a pay cut to pay for it. Otherwise shut up

  • susanf1218

    Or maybe just turn all the prisoners loose?? Is that your solution, since you seem to be opposed to the idea of the prison employees getting any kind of pay raise?

  • wvu999

    Charles, to clarify you are DEAD WRONG.
    WV State law, if you would read it or knew anything about it, states only FIVE weeks have to be off in the summer... My math says 5 weeks doesnt equal 3 months. Under the old law it still wasnt 3 months. Teachers typically went until June 10th and started August 20th.The old law stated service personnel (teachers were never mentioned in the law and again I wouldnt expect you to know the FACTS) had to get their 200 day contact in, in 43 weeks. 52 weeks in a year minus 43 weeks doesnt equal THREE months off.
    Also to CLARIFY teacher MUST have professional development hours aka college graduate classes to keep their teaching certificate. Those are typically taken during the summer.

    I wouldnt expect you to know the FACTS.

    Troll on...

  • bandit

    Where do you expect the money to come from. Wv can't print more money like the federal government can.They are going to have to take it from another department to pay for it. Or raise taxes. Use your head!

  • Charles

    With 3 months off. Just to clarify.

  • Randy

    A raise is great, but raises don't change the overall number of hours needed to staff the facilities. When Taylor says the cost of raises is less than the overtime pay, she is right. If the corrections officers get the raise, that I feel they deserve, it does nothing to alleviate the cost of staffing the prisons.

  • wvu999

    All the teachers you know make between 30k and 60k depending on degree and years experience.
    Just for clarification.

  • wvu999

    If you pay them, they will work.

  • Jim

    All the teachers I know make good money, way more than a lot of WV citizens who pay taxes in order to pay teachers salaries.

  • Jim

    The correction officers deserve raises and a major hiring push. As for teachers getting a raise, no. The state, counties pay them well. The return on our investment is low test scores, large drop out rates. Our children are not ready to go to college or join the work force as a whole. I fault teachers, state and county board of education and parents. A poor performing teacher takes a act of God to fire them. I am in favor of performance bonus, based on input from teachers, BOE and parents. The good teachers will receive the bonus, the slackers will not. It will weed out the ones who need to do some other type of work. Please remember, no one force you to be a teacher!

  • whatamoroon

    No one wants to work for DOC because the pay is ridiculously low. The forced overtime only makes it exponentially worse. Two hundred vacancies in a state laying off people left and right should be an obvious message to those in charge.

  • Well Said

    WV salaries are horrible compared to the rest of the country. Whether education, corrections, or any of the other state agencies, we're lagging. Same pattern holds true for private jobs. I'm at a loss as to what the fix is though.

  • Somebody

    All public agencies have the same problem. If you want to work there are better paying positions at the federal level or by going private. Everything about public employment in WV is outdated and needs revamped if we are ever to have quality services provided.

  • Tom

    So you are telling these people at the DOC to wait for the legislature get their priorities straight before they take care of an emergency situation? What is it going to take to help these people???? They are close to a disaster at each institution!!! Some guard is going to get hurt or killed because of under-staffing!!! It is no different than ignoring safety procedures in a mine. We all going to wait for an explosion??????

  • Roaddawg

    Your right, it's the fact that they are underpaid that keeps people from these jobs. People just can't afford to live on such low wages so it's no surprise that people choose to drive to Ohio, Md, or Va to work.

  • Questions

    I would like to see the pencil pushers in Charleston work an 83 hour work week in a jail. This is why people leave. They need a life. When there are only 13 officers on staff at night for 600 inmates it is not a safe situation.

  • bandit

    wv has only so many citizens that are working and paying taxes. we can only pay for so much. wv legislature needs to get their priorities right

  • Tom

    I am a teacher who feels that the DOC employees do deserve a raise, even if it is at our expense. It is crazy to listen to these people tell the hours they are forced to work because they are so understaffed.

    One word of caution though. Education is headed in the same direction. We cannot fill all the vacancies that we have now in WV and the problem is getting worse, in spite of declining enrollments.

    It is a simple fact. You must pay people to get them in the facility and to keep them. That is why we see shortages across the board in a climate where people complain about not having a job. WV has job openings that people will simply not take.