TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNW) – Gov. Sam Brownback announced that correctional officers at El Dorado Correctional Facility and other Department of Corrections facilities across the state will receive pay increases.
Secretary of Corrections Joseph Norwood said all uniformed staff statewide will be receiving a 5 percent pay raise and El Dorado uniformed staff will receive a 10 percent increase. That means starting pay at El Dorado will go to $15.75 an hour, up from $13.95. All uniformed staff making less than the newly established hiring rates will have their pay increased to the new rates, resulting in a majority of uniformed staff receiving total increases of at least 10 percent.
“We plan to have this implemented on the pay period that begins August 27th so again, that’s a very quick time frame and we want to work through this very quickly,” said Secretary Norwood.
The maximum-security prison is struggling with an annual turnover rate among uniformed officers of 46 percent, and they are sometimes working 16-hours shifts because of staffing shortages. There have also been a number of disturbances at El Dorado.
“In past years, we have had ample applicants to fill the turnover that we had. We have seen here, over the last year, that applicant pool has dried up,” said Secretary Norwood. “This is a step at making the department competitive in this very competitive job market.”
“We are addressing a critical need at a critical time for the Department of Corrections,” said Gov. Sam Brownback. “These are initial steps of things that we can do now under authority of the administration. There are things that require legislative action.”
Robert Choromanksi, the Executive Director of the Kansas Organization of State Employees, agrees that this is a good first step, but doesn’t think it is a permanent fix.
“It’s not a panacea, it’s basically applying a band-aid solution to a gaping wound,” said Choromanski.
State Representative J.R. Claeys says he’s going to push for a bigger increase down the road.
“I’d like to see it closer to 15 to 20 percent across the entire system, and we’ll look for those dollars,” said. Rep. Claeys.
Governor Brownback says the KOSE will go over the pay raises before they can take effect.
He says they’ll be funded through one-time monies, so the legislature will have to find a more permanent source next year.
Along with the pay raises, the KDOC is stepping up its recruitment efforts to ease the officer shortage.
OIfficials say they are working with a number of advertising agencies to get the word out that they’re hiring.
Last month, they sent out a mailer to about 18-thousand residents within a 60 mile radius of the El Dorado prison.
They have also created a Facebook page where people can actually apply for a job right there.
Officials say they have seen a good response from these efforts, but are looking at more innovative ways to recruit.