CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A resolution has been adopted by a legislative interim committee regarding pay raises for West Virginia regional jail employees.
The Legislative Oversight Committee on Regional Jail and Correctional Facility Authority voted Sunday to adopt a resolution that would increase the starting salary for a jail worker to $30,000 per year.
The annual minimum salary for a regional jail employee is currently around $22,000.
With that pay, employees are also having to work up to 16 hour shifts because there are not enough people on staff. Because of low pay and the additional hours, many workers have quit their jobs.
Corrections officers were given a $2,080 pay raise towards the end of last year, according to state Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety Secretary Jeff Sandy. Their pay went from $22,000 to $24,667.
Due to their budget, Sandy said told lawmakers they were unable to implement pay increases for all agencies.
Sandy said more needs to be done to fix the problem. They’ve posted job advertisements, but haven’t received many applications. Sandy said people would rather drive to another state to get paid more.
Delegate Shirley Love (D-Fayette, 32) said it’s horrible that it’s come down to this.
“It should be embarrassing to the Governor. It should be embarrassing to most legislators that you would even have to run ads like that,” he said during Sunday’s meeting.
Right now, there are more than 600 correction officer vacancies in West Virginia.
It’s a two-pronged approach lawmakers will need to tackle this Regular Lesislative Session, according to Delegate John Shott (R-Mercer, 27).
“We need to retain who we’ve got, so we avoid training costs of the replacements, but we also need to add to the current staff to minimize the need for over time and all the safety issues that implicate,” Shott said.
Sandy said the department is working to rehire former regional jail and corrections officers to avoid training costs if salaries for them were increased.
“If we can pull something off this legislative session, we may be able to get people back that’s already trained that left in good standing to come back to work with us and we can save that $15,000 for sending them to the Corrections Academy,” he said.
It’s a shame that so many people have left the system because that means there is now a lack of leadership in the state’s jails and prisons, Sandy said.
“Because of people quitting, we do not have that people in the middle, in the third quarters of their career on staff. We have very little. We do not have those people there to fill in to be the leaders of tomorrow,” he said.
Senator Richard Ojeda (D-Logan, 07) said lawmakers need to approve the pay raises this upcoming session.
“The level of responsibility that we have in those individuals right there does not equal what we pay them,” Ojeda said. “When you talk about retaining people and when you’re talking about the next group that’s coming up that’s going to be the replacements for them, how do we motivate them to want to stay on that route?”
Justice said he planned to use the state’s National Guard to maximize staffing at the facilities until “legislative and operational remedies can be developed and implemented.”
According to the resolution adopted Sunday, the committee:
- Requests DMAPS and the state Division of Personnel to work in conjunction to develop an adequate compensation plan in an effort to raise starting salaries to $30,000 a year across all jail and prison agencies in West Virginia.
- Requests the Governor’s Office support and adopt any staffing or retention plan developed by DMAPS and the Division of Personnel.
- Encourages the Governor’s Office to draft and support any legislation necessary to provide the salary increases with the goal of the increase being $30,000 per year.
The 2018 Regular Legislative Session begins Wednesday.