EL DORADO, Kan. (KSNW) – It’s being called a crisis by some, but the Kansas Department of Corrections says it has things under control.
With three incidents of violence recently, some lawmakers are calling for more money to go into corrections in Kansas to attract more officers.
“There’s a crisis in our corrections system, and it’s been percolating for a couple of years,” says Rep. Jim Ward, D-Wichita. “Several of us in the last session tried to take steps to increase pay, and while we did a small step, we could have done more, and we should have done more.”
Ward says there are too many vacancies for security officers at El Dorado. He says it’s because the pay is not high enough to attract and then keep officers at the facility.
Rep. Chuck Weber, R-Wichita, agrees that more officers are needed.
“I think it’s important that we support our corrections officers, and in the last rally three years, we have given raises to our corrections officers in Kansas,” says Weber. “But unfortunately, we’re just not competitive with the private sector so it’s very difficult for us in a year when we raised taxes tremendously on taxpayers to try to keep up with the private sector.”
Weber says guards may leave for better paying jobs.
KSN reached out to the Department of Corrections, and a spokesperson says things are improving at El Dorado’s max security facility.
“The economy is strong and opportunities in the Wichita area are attractive. KDOC fights to make its pay of correctional officers competitive, but in times of a good economy with low employment, that is a challenge. Oftentimes, people who hope to work in law enforcement agencies view Corrections as the beginning of that career path. In exit interviews, staff frequently state that they have found a job with better pay,” writes Todd Fertig, Communications Director for the Kansas Department of Corrections. “However, that being said, staffing at KDOC facilities frequently sees seasonal ebbs and flows that we deal with. In exit interviews, staff often list things such as “retirement,” “moving” or “returning to school.” We customarily experience higher turnover during the summer. Recruitment efforts are ongoing, and EDCF has actually seen an improved staffing situation in recent weeks. On July 5, EDCF reported 87 vacancies in uniformed staff, while on July 24, there were 73 vacancies. To further alleviate staff shortages at the facility, KDOC emptied a cellhouse, relocating those offenders to other facilities around the state. This move has freed up 14 staff on duty to help cover where needed. These adjustments, combined with continued recruitment efforts that have produced a group of incoming staff, have greatly relieved some of the staffing shortage felt earlier in the summer. The incoming staff is still in training, and their additions will show in staffing numbers in coming weeks.”