Public Comments for 08/25/2021 Joint Committee of House Health, Welfare and Institutions and Public Safety and Senate Judiciary and Rehabilitation and Social Services to Study Staffing Levels, Employment Conditions, and Compensation at the Virginia Department of Corrections
I, Senior Corrections Officer John L. Wolfe, am currently a Corrections Officer at Bland Correctional Center in Bland, Virginia. i would like to voice my opinion on the Retention of Corrections Officers in the Great Commonwealth of Virginia. The New Officers that are being hired here at Bland Corrections Center as well as almost every other correctional facility across Virginia are starting out making about $3000.00 more per year than myself and I've worked here for 4 years. This is definitely not fair to the dedicated, experienced and hard working officers across the Commonwealth of Virginia. We have been Loyal to the Virginia Department of Corrections and it almost seems like us Senior Officers are being punished and replaced by these very young and inexperienced officers. The Morale among most all of the Corrections Officers in the Commonwealth of Virginia is the lowest than I have ever seen it in my 4 years with the D.O.C. Unless we can get a Substantial Pay Increase; Corrections Officers in Virginia are going to continue to leave the D.O.C. by the hundreds or even thousands. I along with hundreds of other Senior Corrections Officers am struggling just to keep my head above water and my bills paid. Please help us Senior Officers with a Substantial Pay Increase as this is the only way that you are going to be able to keep and retain your great officers in the D.O.C. There are hundreds of Officers here and at other Correctional facilities across Virginia that are searching for other better paying jobs right now as we communicate. I have high hopes and expectations that something positive is going to happen in the D.O.C. soon as I am going to continue to hang in there and continue to hope and pray for a better future within the Department of Corrections. Thank all of you immensely for your help and hard work concerning this major issue within the D.O.C. . I have Faith and Confidence that you Will get something positive and great done in our favor. Thanks again, Senior Corrections Officer John L. Wolfe Bland Correctional Center Employee number 7277362
I would gladly have a open dialog with representatives about the issue I personally see inside the Department of Corrections. Increasing the pay is only going to help recruit new staff and may help lower turnover but its just the start. Low pay caused a snowball effect. When you are short staffed you are forced to pick your battles. Poor performing employees are less likely to be held accountable and hiring standards drop to attempt to keep some staff and top performing employees move on to places with more competitive salaries. Training gets stretched thin trying to keep up with the amount of turnover and pressures to push through cadets regardless of performance. The students are giving endless attempts to pass qualifications in order to get them certified and on a post. Everything will continue to get worse as long as the pay doesn't reflect the the caliber of employees we want. If you continue to pay fast food wages you will continue to get fast food style employees. Please at least increase the paybands to compete with the local jails.
Everywhere you go it's the same story. And the only way to fix this short staffing issue and retain people to keep experience online is to raise salary. GA Public safety officials see immediate impact from salary increases: https://www.corrections1.com/corrections-jobs-careers/articles/ga-public-safety-officials-see-immediate-impact-from-salary-increases-INsEFyezUxCWIdXq/?utm_source=Corrections1&utm_campaign=8d7519687d-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2021_07_28_05_09&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_32ad26c2a2-8d7519687d-85143480 ] Worker shortage in Wis costs 60 Million in overtime. https://www.wpr.org/worker-shortage-wisconsin-prisons-leaves-40-percent-jobs-unfilled-waupun Idaho COs plead for more workers during shortage, because it's dangerous! https://www.corrections1.com/officer-safety/articles/idaho-cos-plead-for-more-workers-as-staff-member-is-seriously-injured-J5cMsKkzLIAnbZSv/?utm_source=Corrections1&utm_campaign=5e509defa4-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2021_08_25_03_35&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_32ad26c2a2-5e509defa4-85143480 Washington county offering substantial bonuses to hire now. https://www.corrections1.com/corrections-jobs-careers/articles/wash-county-offering-10k-signing-bonuses-for-some-cos-L0KKUsbDJgnsefYj/?utm_source=Corrections1&utm_campaign=5a918259fa-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2021_08_20_04_07&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_32ad26c2a2-5a918259fa-85143480 Wis. pay increases. https://www.corrections1.com/corrections-jobs-careers/articles/wis-jail-has-seen-112-staffing-turnover-since-2019-lh9mRuu7HHIflYuB/?utm_source=Corrections1&utm_campaign=42f6da0f26-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2021_07_14_05_14&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_32ad26c2a2-42f6da0f26-85143480
VADOC is extremely short handed and it's dangerous. I am speaking as a private citizen. It's been getting worse and worse since around 2015. It's extremely dangerous for officers at the current staffing levels. There are many details officers would like the public to know, but they DO feel as if they will get reprimanded. The simplest way I can say it is, the shortage has caused even more work load (officers being forced to travel to other units even to work!), and more dangerous officer/offender ratios, longer hours (accidents to and from work after long hours). There has been an uptick in incidents. The simplest way many, many MANY officers will say to fix the issue is staff retention. The BEST way to get people to stay is more money. No one wants to stay working for the VADOC at the current rate of pay with the stress they encounter. Cost of living has gone up yearly as well as insurance costs and the rate of pay is behind much of the country. The new hires are easily flipped to working for the offenders that will pay them more to smuggle items in. Makes sense no? If your 21 years old, have to work forever it seems for a decent retirement, cannot afford anything without a second job, you'll be tempted to either A: Leave for a better job. B: Smuggle contraband in for offenders for money. That in itself creates a more dangerous situation. This is on going and years ago officers voiced their concerns. The staff shortage is getting worse still. It's dangerous. Help the officers.
I accepted a job within a VADOC facility. My position was advertised at $41k/yr. I was offered $8k per year less than advertised. Being out of work, I accepted out of desperation. My previous position required a much higher level of skill. How long should a reasonable person stay in a job advertised at $8k higher than it actually pays for health benefits? Instead of attending training I was sent straight to my duty station. There is no manual for my position. The local on-line resource library which should have this information is never available and hasn't been since my start. Because I had NO security/facility training I experienced some personnel issues- no fault of my own but due to lack of training- that were demeaning and upsetting. While the ideals of firm, fair and consistent treatment of employees is touted REPEATEDLY in training, it has not been my experience. My facility has a high level of nepotism negatively affecting the "firm, fair, consistent" tenet and it's commonly known that "its all who you know" that determines treatment. It is my opinion that DOC being the lowest paid agency, combined with local culture and the pandemic are all factors contributing to emergent, critically low staffing levels. I am astounded by the # of unvaccinated staff - we are short but will be shorter if they infect us. If you are not willing to make yourself safe, how can you be entrusted to keep coworkers and inmates safe? Inexperienced, undertrained staff must carry duties of security staff, *without security pay or training*. After 6 mos. I am not fully trained in my position- staff in our office are pulled to different areas, as a result functions that should have been taught months ago still haven't even been considered. As a seasoned professional outside of VADOC, this does not contribute to workplace morale. I found out in a virtual training class that employees at other facilities who do the same job I do get two (2) 15 min breaks per day. I don't. Ummm.... why? There is a need to perform a work-flow analysis from the ground up at DOC to reduce the # of unnecessarily redundant processes, loop-holed functions providing far too much room for error that may affect the rights of inmates; there are fiscal rules that are entirely arbitrary. Staff aren't trained to the processes they are involved in. Contractors could and should contribute to a more streamlined workflow; instead the agency at least at the local level has a pervasive attitude of "well this is how it is, it's the best we have so we will make do" instead of "We can make this (pick one) change for the better. If JPAY/GTL/Johnson Controls can't help or change, we will find another contractor". Benefits are wonderful but my salary is not competitive enough for me to stay for the benefits. I did not take a job in finance to perform tasks suited to security and medical staff. My facility is experiencing a dangerous staffing shortage . I am terrified of contracting Delta from my own ill-informed coworkers that I HAVE TO MONITOR TESTING FOR when you've also removed PHEL. There's no one else to do it. Most coworkers are very dedicated to the DOC ideals and we/they deserve better. Inmates have a gym and all new equipment. Staff HAD a gym housed in the former K9 kennel (would you want to work out on rusted equipment that smells of like the pound?). Inmates are strong and healthy. Overworked staff are NOT. It's plainly dangerous.
All state employee need better compensation Year after year our pay raises we’re not approved So we are significantly behind private employer State Employees need pay for performance that was instituted almost 20 years ago but never funded This needs to happen every year So with said please increase compensation for all state employees