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.