Public Comments for 11/09/2021 Joint Committee of the 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
Last Name: Connors Locality: Independence

To reiterate and further expound upon information given within the employee survey, I wish for these thoughts to be reviewed by the committee. I am proud of my career, and dedicated to working toward a more influential role within the Department that accepts more responsibilities, as I believe in the mission of the Department of Corrections and view the positions within the department as being vital to the safety and security of the Commonwealth that I call my home. The Department of Corrections provides an essential public service by enhancing public safety within the Commonwealth. In this regard, Corrections staff are no less essential to the Criminal Justice System within the Commonwealth than the State Police or other state-funded law enforcement agencies. It is an up-hill battle to attract the level of qualified candidates that would be essential to maintain safe and effective operations within the Department of Corrections, when the disparity in pay-scale between Correctional Officers and other law enforcement agencies is so great. An increase in starting salary would be the first step toward attracting desirable candidates for these roles. An additional measure to achieve this outcome would be to increase public awareness of the Department of Corrections’ mission, and the value of the Department of Corrections to the many communities in which institutions have a presence. As Correctional Officers perform their duties effectively, the safety of the Commonwealth is ensured, and more steps could, and should, be taken to make the public aware of this fact. If a career in Corrections was held in higher esteem, an increase in qualified applicants would ensue. This can be reverted back toward the issue of pay scale. In offering low salaries for such an important and necessary role, the correctional officer position is not viewed in a favorable light by the unknowing public. In summary, compensation that accurately reflects the value of Correctional Officers within the Commonwealth, along with an increase in the positive public image of the Department within communities will yield positive results. There must be greater effort made toward attracting qualified candidates for these roles, and while that may start with increased salaries, it is not where this mission ends. These are my own views and thoughts, and as such, they should in no way be construed as an official view or statement by, or on behalf of, the Virginia Department of Corrections.

Last Name: Brookfield Organization: VADOC Locality: Goochland

Please fight for us for a raise! We are losing so many officers more than we can replace due to other facilities (Sheriffs, Jails, VA State Police, etc) for higher wages, and less work. We work from 0545AM - 0615 PM or Later (10 PM/AM Max, sometimes longer) and expected to return back to work at 0545 AM/PM? How do we sleep? We sign up for multiple days to work, granted we do have 5 days off or 7 depending on the facilities schedule. however, Take for example. We work 28 day cycles, 14 of those days we work, 14 we are off. we have to work Mandatory overtime maximum or 6 days, minimum of 4 days, depending on the needs. You turn that into 18-20 days working 12 hours to 16-17 hour days! Do you guys not realize the toll that is on a Correctional officer? It's horrible! The mental strain, the physical strain on the body from exhaustion. We need help fast, or you will see it suffer even more so than it already has. Imagine you are sitting at home one evening...All is quiet, normal, everything going routinely as any other day. You hear a knock at the door, you think nothing of it. You approach the door to see who it is, perhaps they will knock, perhaps they will just break a window. But its an escaped inmate! He/She wants money...may want to hotwire the car, Hurt your family or you. how did they escape? Because maybe that tower officer was sleeping due to exhaustion, maybe one of the tower posts was shut down in order to man the units. Roving patrol may of missed it during change over. It can happen, it has happened, and it will happen again maybe. The public is our priority in keeping them safe just as much as police. Without us, what would you do? where would you keep them and manage them? What would you say to the families that sue the facilities because their loved ones got hurt or killed in riots and fights due to low staffing. This is not a problem you guys can ignore no longer, we can no longer be swept under the rug. Department of Corrections always been viewed as a lesser department for funding. It use to be an excuse because of how we present ourselves or how we conduct ourselves, we have our mistakes and people who should not be working their, just like the police have their corrupt cops. Funding needs to improve on Corrections, Quit looking for alternative by releasing inmates or shutting down prisons to consolidate. That is not the answer, its only a bandage on a heavy bleeding wound. So for the sake of everyone that is in the department, please give us a raise, bump the pay to 44-45K, and incremental Raises for staff that has been working for years, that are getting under paid for the dedication. Should be no excuse at all period how a brand new officer can come in the door making 35K-38K and a 10 year veteran making less, or a sergeant making less. No. Excuse. Period. It must be fixed soon or national guard will have to be activated to take posts in the prisons due to shortages, and god forbid if staff group together and conduct a work stoppage and refuse post. This is getting on dangerous lines, so please help us!

Last Name: Anonymous Locality: Anonymous

I have been in the Department of Corrections for 15 years in security. and Special Response Team. This is the worst staffing shortage I have ever seen. Why is Lieutenants and Above is not being paid overtime when they are filling in as a Watch Commander on a different shift? they are only getting paid when they work an actual post on a different shift, and that's only Straight Time, last time I checked, per federal law no matter what you are, you are supposed to get paid Overtime (Time and a half). If ANY Lieutenant and above is working a shift other than their scheduled day they should be getting paid overtime regardless. Everyone is working drafts at their facilities and at Sussex, how can Officers and Supervisors balance out the work and life? Families are getting very upset at this department because their loved ones are working almost every single day to cover for other facilities and their home facility. There are 2 draft lists (One for Sussex and One for the facility) Policy says it should only be one regardless. This department is operating under gross negligence per their own policy because of failure of filling positions and supporting staff. The new 2022-2026 strategic plan was rolled out, and it talks about how the department plans to allow Officers more work/life balance. How will this be possible if nothing will not be done for the severe staffing shortage immediately? These $6,000 bonuses, once was a $10,000 bonuses given to new hires is a slap in the face to veteran staff that have been around for over 5-25 years that have NEVER gotten that type of bonus before, we are the ones that have been dedicated to this department. The Majority of the New Hires are not staying. Furthermore, I understand one chairperson on your board does not understand the Officer to Inmate ratio. It has NEVER been 1 officer to every 3 inmates, at some Facilities its one Officer to every 300, others 1 Officer to every 176, 1 Officer to every 200, do you get the picture here? he needs to get his facts straight. We are the "Forgotten Cops." I have seen things while working in this department I dare not to repeat because of what we had to go thru. This state is 49th in the country in Corrections Pay. But its more than that. It's time for the front Office in Richmond to start doing more than what they get paid for to make an investment in their future, and in their Officers future, I am certain that all the talent we have, Kings Dominion will not mind paying them $50,000 a year like every one else other than the VADOC, and it is sad that the Department will lose all these talented staff because of what they not "want" to do. Telling a formation stating "We will no longer accept accommodations for outside posts, and K-9 will only work Monday thru Friday with outside posts," is telling Officers, "oh i'm just a number on the roster." The staffing shortage is a very dangerous situation, the department is hindering public safety, because the failure of not recognizing their own talented staff. An security member that have had years of experience should not be waiting for many years for promotion or go to trainings such as "Instructor's school" etc. All because someone else of less than 2 years went, because of the "favorites" game. Policy says, we are all afforded extra training, not just select individuals. How can this department train younger generations, if no one allows the veteran staff to go to these trainings?

Last Name: Dural Organization: Public Locality: Northumberland

I'd like to make a comment about a senators remark on staffing levels vs offender levels in the prisons. It was a funny play on numbers that he sorely misunderstands or purposely made out to be in the favor of an opposing agenda. He said the ratio is 24,600 offenders and 7, 265 authorized officers positions (but there are vacancies) I ask now, do those 7,265 officers all work at the same time? 24hrs a day? No. Do the officers all work with the offenders? No. You have transportation officers, program officers, outer posts. All shift the ratio to what it is in reality. He said 1 officer for every 3.6 offenders. That's simply not true. Lets break the 7,265 (With shortages and vacancies mind you, but we'll use the authorized amount) into 4 shifts. 1,816 officers. The amount of offenders stay the same. They're always there. 24,600 divided by the officers. That's 13 offenders per officer. 14 if you want to round up. Now take away your outer posts and officers that are off of work or out sick. Take away your vacancies. I'm positive there are units out there that have ONE floor officer for a WHOLE building. How many offenders is that per officer? I'm not sure why the misconstruing of the numbers. But it's not a realistic look at staffing levels. We are NOT ahead of the curve. No money isn't the only issue. But a lot of other issues would be resolved by making Corrections a life long career choice with great benefits and pay instead of a terrible job/stepping stone to other jobs. It's not a bonus. Bonuses don't keep people. If it's the economy we are worried about, why wouldn't we infuse the community keepers with more money to sustain their families? Bonuses are a one time deal, it's no way to sustain officers. Why wouldn't we want to keep more inexperienced officers there with more money and better benefits?

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