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Editorial: $1 raise for corrections officers is an important first step

From The Parkersburg News and Sentinel:

Men and women who choose to work as officers in our state’s correctional facilities perform a job few people are capable of doing well.

“It has to be one of the most challenging jobs in all of West Virginia,” said Lawrence Messina, director of communications for the West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety. “It’s a critical public safety mission these people (do) around-the-clock, 365 days a year.”

Yet, for many years, West Virginia had the lowest starting salary for corrections officers in the nation. It is a thankless job with a very high turnover rate. Last year, correctional agencies paid out a combined $13.5 million in overtime costs to man the vacant shifts.

So, officials did a little tweaking, and Military Affairs and Public Safety Secretary Jeff Sandy and the Justice administration did “a lot of work.” The State Personnel Board approved a $1-an-hour raise, and officers can begin earning overtime after 40 hours in one week, instead of waiting until after they have hit 80 hours during a two-week pay period.

Assuming the change will not tap into money collected by overbilling counties and that the department is able to continue operating within its means, the move is an important one; and should be only the first step in looking for ways to do right by the folks who go to work every day in such a difficult environment.

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