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 WV correctional officers to see pay raises across-the-board

7/27/2017

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – All West Virginia correctional officers will see their pay increase by $2,080 annually as of Sept. 2, after a unanimous State Personnel Board voted Thursday to approve a proposal advanced by Military Affairs and Public Safety Secretary Jeff Sandy and his leadership team.

 The raise equates to $1 an hour, and will apply to all seven classifications of correctional officers as well as to new hires. For a starting Correctional Officer 1, for instance, the raise increases the annual salary to $24,664 or by more than 9 percent.

 “A lot of work went into this action,” Sandy said. “Governor Justice supported this. He stated that we had to do something for these dedicated employees. Many correctional officers spoke to me personally about this, and I knew we had to act.”

 The long-sought raises will coincide with a policy change across the department’s correctional agencies – the Regional Jail Authority and the Division of Juvenile Services as well as the Division of Corrections – that will allow officer to begin earning overtime after working more than 40 hours a week. The overtime threshold has been 80 hours during the two-week pay period.

 “We are so happy that our corrections professionals are being recognized for one of the toughest positions in state government,” said Acting Corrections Commissioner Loita Butcher. “This is a step in the right direction, and we thank Governor Justice and Secretary Sandy for their continued support of those who keep the citizens of this state safe.”

 Sandy and his team convinced the board to approve the pay raise and special hiring rate by documenting the serious turnover and vacancy rates that the state’s prisons, jails and juvenile facilities have endured for several years.

 These facilities together lost 1,219 employees, nearly all of them correctional officers, during the 2013-2014 budget year. The number of separations had risen to 1,359 by the 2015-2016 budget year. Each departure costs the department an estimated $15,835 in lost training and other expenses. To cover the resulting vacant posts, the correctional agencies together paid $13.5 million for overtime during the 2016 fiscal year alone.

 “We only wish we could do more,” said Regional Jail Authority Director David Farmer. “We want our dedicated men and women to know that we appreciate what they do.”

 Most of West Virginia’s correctional officer positions are at classified levels one through four. Of those 2,640 full-time positions, nearly one in four was vacant as of July 1. The department turned to the State Personnel Board for relief after yet another session of inaction by the Legislature. Under the department’s proposal, funding allotted to long-term vacancies will cover the pay increases.

 “We have all been advocating for several years that these employees receive better compensation for putting themselves on the front lines daily,” said Denny Dodson, acting director of the Division of Juvenile Services. “I do believe that this is positive first step to support our correctional staff, and hopefully we can achieve more for our employees in the future.”

 

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LAWRENCE MESSINA (304) 558-2930 Lawrence.C.Messina@wv.gov