- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 24, 2016

YPSILANTI, Mich. (AP) - The use of mandatory overtime amid a shortage of female corrections officers has prompted concerns at a women’s prison near Ypsilanti.

Mandatory overtime has heighted stress at Huron Valley Correctional Facility, which earlier was the focus of complaints about potential overcrowding and pushed some officers to quit, the Detroit Free Press reported (https://on.freep.com/1U7yVUj ) on Tuesday.

Michigan Department of Corrections spokesman Chris Gautz said there are 35 vacant corrections officer positions at the prison, which is close to 10 percent below full staffing levels but still seen as an improvement from 46 vacancies a year ago.

The department must use mandatory overtime to assure the prison is adequately staffed, Gautz said. Meanwhile, the department is working to train more female corrections officers because male officers aren’t allowed to work in residential areas of Huron Valley.

The state said it paid $5.2 million in custody overtime - not including holiday pay - at the prison in 2014-15, the most recent year for which data was available.

The overtime issue was highlighted this month when Corrections Officer Latasha Clements quit her job, citing “my health, safety and the best interests of my family.”

In an email to prison, union and legislative officials obtained by the newspaper, she said: “The constant mandating, three and four days consecutively, have caused my physical and emotional health to deteriorate, as well (as) causing diminished ability to adequately care for my husband and children.”

Gautz said he couldn’t specifically address the email due to privacy rules, but said: “Being able to work overtime is considered an essential function of the corrections officer classification.” Officers refusing overtime would face discipline, he said.

Tom Tylutki, president of the Michigan Corrections Organization union, said there have been times when the entire midnight shift - which is scheduled to work from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. - has been ordered to work a second back-to-back shift, from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., for several days in a row.

“We’re concerned,” said Tylutki, who noted that the Corrections Department appears to be making a concerted effort to deal with staffing shortages.

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Information from: Detroit Free Press, https://www.freep.com

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