PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) –
Teachers aren’t the only state employees demanding a raise. Correctional Officers say they have been giving in since the recession, and they say the pay is now driving people away.
“Not everybody can do the job,” said Correctional Officer Clinton Roberts. “You have to be able to respond and react in minutes.”
He has been working for the Arizona Department of Corrections for more than 12 years, and is now the president of the Arizona Corrections Association. He also said times have been tight.
“I carpool with two other officers,” Roberts said, because of gas prices. “I’ve changed my lifestyle over the 13 years I’ve been there.”
He said he doesn’t begrudge teachers for demanding a raise, and understands why they’re planning Thursday’s walk out. But he said they (corrections officers) have made concessions over the years, too.
“They’re working a job that, frankly, many of us would not even consider because it’s dangerous, the unpleasantries of the job,” said Joe Clure with the Arizona Police Association.
[RELATED: 3 Arizona inmates found guilty of trying to kill jail guard]
“When I go to work, I don’t have to be concerned about getting feces or urine thrown on me or assaulted or possibly killed.”
[RELATED: Prison guard attacked by two inmates, stabbed in neck]
Clure gave us a recent department of corrections retention report. It shows starting salary is $32,916, and is less than our five neighboring states. And at five of Arizona’s prisons, more than 20% of correctional officer positions are vacant. One prison is dealing with a 27% retention rate.
“It creates an unsafe work environment for the officers, the non-security staff, and even to a point, the inmates,” Roberts said.
A spokesperson for the Arizona Department of Corrections sent us a statement saying:
The department deeply values the work of all of our employees, particularly correctional officers, who are on the front lines of service. Officer retention and providing competitive compensation is an issue that Director Ryan has prioritized — that’s why this A-3 report was completed by the department. It is intended to collect data and acute detail regarding the challenges we face in order to help us identify possible solutions.
ADC has implemented several one-time compensation strategies to increase to our officers’ paychecks. Last year, for instance, we were able to pay a retention bonus of $1,500 to all correctional officers (About 5,600 in all). Additionally, our officers were eligible to receive performance-based merit pay. We also offer 5% and 10% geographic stipends at select prisons to help compensate officers.
We will continue to prioritize opportunities to increase pay for our correction officers whenever possible – they deserve it!
Clure said, those measures are a start.
“There are other state employees well-deserving employees who do important and dangerous jobs, that also have suffered the consequences of the great recession,” Clure said.
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