Savings could be used to improve guard pay

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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