Nearly $40 Million Spent in Arizona on Overtime Pay for Correctional Officers

Almost $40 million was spent by the Arizona Department of Corrections on overtime pay and expenses recently to compensate for hundreds of unfilled positions at 10 state-run prisons.

With 550 correctional officer positions open, the $39.1 million in overtime pay, which increased from $28.3 million last year, went to a selection of employees who picked up extra shifts last fiscal, earning time and a half pay or additional vacation days.

Public information officer for the Arizona Correctional Peace Officers Association, Robert Blackmer, said this situation could leave officers feeling overworked, resulting in mistakes due to fatigue and exhaustion.

In addition to taking on extra hours, officers helping with open positions were often transferred from prison to prison, filling in wherever necessary.

Anthony Spears, president of the Arizona Corrections Association, said all the shuffling was a public safety issue, as inmates could have taken advantage of uncomfortable and unfamiliar officers and staff members.

Department Of Corrections spokesman Andrew Wilder rejected Spears’ argument, and insisted that policies and regulations are consistent.

“In fact, given that rotations and transfers are common, staff oftentimes has prior experience in these other locations, having worked there previously,” Wilder said, according to The Arizona Republic.

Something Spears and Wilder can agree on is that the millions spent on overtime pay could be used elsewhere, such as in updated cost of living evaluations and raises for current officers.

Right now, the state is facing a serious issue with retention rates of correctional officers. From January to June of 2015, 600 officers quit their jobs.

In Arizona, the average salary for a correctional officer with mid-level experience or more (4 or more years) at the state level is approximately $38,000 to $41,000.

Spooky Crime: Does Criminal Activity Increase on Halloween?

Ghoulish behavior, scary costumes and plenty of tricks are a given on Halloween, but should you expect an increase in criminal activity on October 31? If you live in Tempe, Arizona, you might.

Based on a look at crime rates on Halloween in 10 different cities across the U.S., including Tempe, these are the determining factors for Halloween crime rates:

  • Day of the week Halloween falls on. If Halloween occurs over the weekend, parties and other activities could contribute to an increase in crimes on that specific day.
  • Common crimes specific to the city at hand.
  • Any crime prevention programs in place by the city.
  • Whether the city is a college town. University-age students are likely to celebrate Halloween with drinking and partying, which could lead to increased criminal activity.
  • Whether any Halloween activities are available for kids and teens. If structured Halloween activities are available, this could reduce the chance of kids and teens getting into legal trouble with pranks, like toilet papering a house, which could be considered vandalism.

In Tempe, theft, vandalism and simple assault top the charts for Halloween crimes, followed by alcohol-related incidents. With Tempe being home to Arizona State University, the largest public university in the U.S., parties and heavy traffic in popular entertainment areas like Mill Avenue make incidents such as DUI and assault fairly common, especially during holidays and special events like Halloween.

Of course, whether criminal activity spikes on Halloween in Arizona depends on a variety of environmental factors. And while these specific crimes are at the top of the list to look out for on Halloween in Tempe, it’s important to look at these results with an analytical eye.

Tempe’s crime rates fluctuate due to a drastic change in population during the workday, which increases by 46 percent each day thanks to high numbers of people from all over the Valley commuting to ASU as well as Tempe’s many employment hubs. Tempe was ranked eighth most dangerous suburb in America in a 2014 crime-rate compilation by real estate company Movoto LLC, however, this does not necessarily mean that Tempe is a dangerous city.

Crime rates are determined by dividing the number of crimes reported by the city’s residential population, which means that Tempe’s inflated daytime population could skew its data, resulting in misleading crime rates. This same issue is also true for any special event or holiday that generates a crowd or celebration, like Halloween.

So, should Arizona residents be worried about an increase in crimes on Halloween? Not necessarily. Just be aware that there’s always a risk of criminal behaviour when crowds and parties are involved. Otherwise, following the same safety precautions practiced on an everyday basis, like locking up and keeping a close eye on kids, should do the trick.

Illegal CDL Scandal Weighs Heavy on Established Truckers

At Corso Law Group, we work with truck drivers every day. These individuals display how much hard work, time and effort it takes to obtain and maintain a commercial driver’s license (CDL) and it’s not a privilege that should be given without being earned.

Recently, experienced truck drivers were taken for spin when California Department of Motor Vehicles employees were arrested for distributing fraudulent commercial driver’s license (CDL) to unauthorized truck drivers in exchange for thousands of dollars.Texas CDL Driver

Without having to have passed the required tests, the drivers caused great harm and potential danger to those around them on the roads. As a result of the scandal, authorities believe that these drivers caused 23 accidents.

Luckily however, no deaths occurred due to the crashes but in corruptive bribery situations such as these, it’s crucial that law enforcement shuts down the illegal operation immediately.

Truck driver George McDonald commented on the matter for a CBS Sacramento article saying, “if you’re not properly trained to drive one, a truck, you have really no business behind it,” and we agree. These truck drivers were behind many of the largest vehicles that are operated on the roads including 18-wheelers.

Federal authorities estimate that over 100 drivers were involved in the scandal, paying up to $5,000 each for license. According to U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner, the DMV databases were illegally switched to show that the truck drivers involved had infact passed both their written and driving tests.

Besides the obvious danger this situation put the public in, it’s important to note that truck driving requirements are already extensive as is. When a truck driver receives a CDL ticket or commits any of these offenses, serious penalties can occur.

Since the scandal was uncovered, truck drivers say the public is now safe on the roads once again.

Three Reasons Corso Law Group Attorneys Appreciate and Respect Our Clients

When most people hear the word criminal, a negative visual comes to mind. At Corso Law Group, we defend these criminals each and every day. Recently, I spoke with with Kevin Price of The Price of Business and discussed why I became a criminal defense attorney.

During the interview, I explained Corso Law Group’s view on how we treat our clients and why helping criminals through their situations instead of conviction has brought great benefits to everyone. Here are 3 reasons our attorneys at Corso Law Group respect our “criminals”.

1) We know they’re not bad people, they’re just in a tough position

At Corso Law Group, we believe that we represent the person, not just the client. With the wide variety of cases we defend we understand that certain situations occur without notice and definitely without intention. That’s why it’s our job to analyze and understand the client’s situation fully and from there, provide them with beneficial and smart advice. We seek to find out every piece of the puzzle through truly getting to know and understand the client.

2) We want to keep the family involved

When I was explaining to Mr. Price my reasoning behind becoming a criminal defense attorney, I placed a heavy emphasis on the families of the clients we defend. It has and always will be important to Corso Law Group that we include the family or those closest to our client in the process. This is because we know that typically, our client is not the only person experiencing trouble or confusion during this time.

3) Conviction shouldn’t be the first resort

With the shocking statistics Mr. Price was discussing, as criminal defense attorneys we want to help our clients avoid the worst case scenario. Although dependent upon each case, we never want our clients to feel trapped by the law. That’s why our job is both seek the truth and bring it to light.

A criminal defense attorney’s version of a criminal and society’s version are completely different. At Corso Law Group, we want to understand your story and help you fight to defend your rights.

For more information about who we are a firm, visit our reviews page today

Please note: Attorney Christopher P. Corso is solely licensed to practice law in the state of Arizona. A criminal defense attorney solely licensed to practice law in the state of Texas will handle your Texas legal matter.

You Ask, We Answer: 6 FAQ’s Concerning Criminal Defense Cases

When facing a legal situation where a criminal defense attorney is necessary, we understand that it can be confusing and difficult.

Preparing yourself before hand and knowing the full extent of the situation is an important factor. Here are a variety of frequently asked questions I receive from potential clients and people I speak to concerning criminal defense cases

1) How do I know if I need to hire a lawyer?

If you have been charged with a crime, you need to hire a lawyer. It doesn’t matter if the charge is for a misdemeanor or a felony, the expertise and advice of an attorney is the smartest route to take. In regards to criminal charges, a criminal defense attorney can help you to asses the situation you’re in, decide upon the most effective and efficient path to take and provide advice and tools in regards to your protection of the law.

2) How does bail work?

Your bail is a specific amount of money deposited to the court in order to secure that you will attend your court hearing. Typically, the posted bail amount is done so by a bail bond company. More importantly, a criminal defense lawyer can help their client significantly during this time period. Your attorney may have the ability to lower or waive the bail fee through negotiating with the bail bondsman on your behalf.

3) Should I be in contact with the police to try and explain my side of the story?

Absolutely not. Although we understand you just want to get across your point, it’s always safe to not say anything because legally anything you say to a police officer can be used against you in court or in a future arrest. It is always best when being questioned that you direct all questions to your attorney.

4) How much does hiring a criminal defense attorney cost?

It depends upon the law firm and your attorney. At Corso Law Group, we pride ourselves on being fair in all aspects of our careers and maintaining our focus on what the client needs. Before deciding on a firm and paying important costs, our advice is that you make sure your criminal defense attorney is not without these crucial traits.

5) How long does a criminal defense case take?

While the length of a criminal case depends on the internal matters, typically they can take anywhere from a few months to much longer. We understand that this is a difficult time for our clients, and although these are not processes that can be rushed, they are definitely processes that require great detail and focus. It is always beneficial to the client that each step is taken properly in order to create a successful outcome.

6) What is a preliminary hearing?

The preliminary hearing is described as the “trail before the trial”. This is where your attorney will be able to analyze and fully examine the case.  If your criminal defense lawyer handles the preliminary hearing successfully, it can result in a significantly positive outcome.

Please note: Attorney Christopher P. Corso is solely licensed to practice law in the state of Arizona. A criminal defense attorney solely licensed to practice law in the state of Texas will handle your Texas legal matter.

Former Employee of Arizona Medicaid Agency Suspected of Stealing $1.5 Million

A former employee for the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS), which is Arizona’s medicaid system, recently pleaded not guilty to charges of stealing an estimated $1.5 million from the program.Michael Veit - AHCCCS

Michael Veit, 63, faces 42 counts of criminal charges regarding money laundering, trafficking, theft and fraud.

Before getting fired, Veit had been a state employee for 35 years and an AHCCCS employee for the last 27 years. His responsibilities included overseeing administrative functions regarding contracts for items such as facility office supplies, where his annual salary was $99,892. Previously, Veit worked for the Department of Corrections.

As a result of this arrest, a criminal investigation is underway by the Arizona Attorney General’s Office and Maricopa County. AHCCCS is also planning to begin an audit and review of its internal protocols that will be independently run.

Months before Veit’s arrest, a bill to create a new Office of State Inspector General died in the most recent legislative session.

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey suggested creating a new office to help with state fraud, corruption and waste issues. It would work directly under the governor to investigate “the operations, management and affairs of state agencies,” including employee performance, The Arizona Republic reported.

The Office of State Inspector General would also have subpoena power and the ability to keep investigative records secret, which is one of the reasons why it wasn’t passed.

With Veit’s recent arrest, could Arizona benefit from a new, investigative state agency? Some will certainly use this case to support Ducey’s idea, while others believe that it would be unnecessary as the Attorney General already has the ability to investigate fraud.

What do you think? Would a new, investigative state office be a redundant addition or would it help keep Arizona honest?

Arizona Governor Cuts Ties with Private Prison Operator in Kingman

Are Arizona’s private prisons in need of serious reform? This question was sparked after Arizona Governor Doug Ducey recently cut ties with a prison operator after riots broke out resulting in injuries, the evacuation of thousands of inmates, building damage and an investigation into the prison’s management.

The Arizona Department of Corrections (DOC) conducted an investigative report on the prison, and noted the private operator of the Golden Valley facility, Management & Training Corporation (MTC), had “a culture of disorganization, disengagement and disregard” of the DOC’s security, inmate safety and management policies.

More significant findings from the report stated MTC failed to conduct important staff training required by the state and hid this information from DOC; that the riots were not effectively handled and went on for longer than they should have, resulting in increased damage to the prison; and that the inmates  were likely dissatisfied with the operation of the prison because frustration and violence during the riot were directed at the prison staff and to damaging the facility – not to one another.

MTC took full responsibility for the uncontrolled riots that occurred in July, but insisted that the DOC investigation was flawed.

With Arizona having the sixth highest incarceration rate in the country, some believe although Ducey has terminated the Kingman prison operator’s contract, cutting ties might not be enough to improve the Kingman prison or any other management issues that may exist at other facilities.

More than two months after the riot, few improvements regarding how the facility will be managed have been announced, other than the fact that it will be contracted to another private, for-profit operator.

As Arizona looks forward from this event, many questions regarding whether the state’s prisons are capable of maintaining proper security and what will happen moving forward are left unanswered.

Can texting and driving laws be enforced?

I was recently asked about the effectiveness of texting and driving laws in the United States. If you spend any time on the road, you’ll see someone texting while they’re behind the wheel. And many laws are currently on the books to keep people from doing just that. So what’s happening? Here’s my take:

Can texting and driving laws be enforced?

To begin, not every state even has these kinds of laws to enforce, like Montana and Arizona, which do not have any sort of ban on texting and driving. However, it’s clear that most of the country has seen the devastation texting and driving can have.

As a result, 46 states do have some sort of regulation in place to keep people from distracted driving. When it comes to actually enforcing these bans, law enforcement is doing everything in their power to detect and stop distracted driving. Certain devices are even in the works to help police better detect texting and driving, but for now, spreading awareness about the dangers and legal repercussions of distracted driving is doing a lot to help enforce these laws.

Have texting and driving laws had any effect on the rate of distracted driving accidents/fatalities?

Yes. States that have implemented texting bans have seen a decrease in distracted (texting and driving) accidents. According to a recent study, texting bans had the most powerful impact on younger drivers. They found that there was less deaths among the 15-21 age range, and overall, a decrease of fatalities concerning all age groups.

It’s true that these laws can be difficult to implement, but when people recognize that law enforcement is looking for a certain type of behavior, they’re more aware of how they’re driving.

When people know the legal consequences of texting and driving, that’s when you begin to see the positive outcomes of these laws. It seems that people are beginning to realize that a text message isn’t worth the potential harm or heavy fines and tickets that come with it.

Are texting and driving laws pointless?

I don’t think so. Now that many states have banned texting and driving, there’s been a decrease in traffic deaths and accidents around the country. Law enforcement is on the lookout for this type of behavior, and drivers are taking notice.

About the Author
Attorney Christopher Corso is the founding attorney of Corso Law Group. A native of Rhode Island, Corso previously worked as a prosecutor for the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office serving as a mentor to newer prosecutors and specializing in DUI related offenses. Prior to that, he worked as a prosecutor for the Mesa City Prosecutors Office where he specialized in domestic violence offenses. While employed in Mesa, he assisted in preparing the court’s Domestic Violence Manual. Corso graduated from Roger Williams University in Bristol, Rhode Island, where he received his Bachelor of Science Degree in Paralegal Studies in 1997. He received his Juris Doctorate degree from Suffolk University School of Law in Boston, Massachusetts.

In 2003, Corso became licensed to practice law throughout the state of Arizona. He is admitted to practice law in the Arizona Supreme Court as well as in the United States Federal District Court. Corso is currently a member of numerous professional legal organizations, including the American Bar Association, the Arizona Bar Association, the Maricopa County Bar Association and the Association of Trial Lawyers of America.