- Associated Press - Monday, December 1, 2014

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - State and union officials acknowledge that understaffing has led to violations of the contract covering employees at the Topeka Correctional Facility for women and other state prisons.

The violations include having probationary officers train new workers and requiring employees to work double shifts. Currently, state prisons are operating with minimum staffing deficits of 10 percent, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported (https://bit.ly/1A7h0Fj ).

Rebecca Proctor, executive director of the Kansas Organization of State Employees, said the violations raised questions about the security of inmates, prison employees and people living near state prisons.

“It’s unfortunate,” she said, “because corrections is one of those areas that impacts everybody.”

Jan Clausing, the correction department’s human resources director, investigated a union complaint about the training of new employees at the Topeka Correctional Facility and said she found several instances of probationary officers doing the training. Although she found the officers had leadership qualities and a good grasp of correctional practices, the training violates a provision of the contract and the TCF has discontinued the practice.

Department spokesman Jeremy Barclay said mandatory overtime had been authorized since 2009 in an agreement between the state and the union, and that the forced overtime was likely to continue.

TCF employees were told the prison’s management had “no choice but to require workers to stay over for a second full shift because there was no one to relieve them,” Proctor said.

She said ongoing staffing problems at state prisons were endangering officers and contributed to 10 officers being attacked during violence at Lansing Correctional Facility in June.

Proctor also blamed low pay for the shortage of employees - starting pay is about $28,308 and corrections officers haven’t had a raise since 2009.

State Sen. Ty Masterson, R-Andover, said during a legislative hearing that lawmakers might consider improving compensation if corrections officers voluntarily left the classified employee system and participated in a retirement plan requiring smaller contributions by the state, which would reduce their job protections.

Proctor said most union members at state prisons weren’t interested in that because they’re concerned about being randomly dismissed.

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Information from: The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, https://www.cjonline.com


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