By ANDREA LANNOM
CHARLESTON , W.Va. – The West Virginia Senate introduced Concurrent Resolution 5 Wednesday which requests the Division of Military Affairs and Public Safety and the Division of Personnel to develop a plan to raise correctional officers’ salaries.
Last month, Gov. Jim Justice declared a state emergency because of staff shortages at state correctional facilities. He signed an executive order saying the state is at a crisis dealing with housing people in its correctional facilities and that correctional officers staffing levels are less than safely recommended.
The order gave the secretary of Military Affairs and Public Safety authority to develop and oversee use of the divisions including the West Virginia National Guard, to maximize staffing at correctional facilities until legislative and operational remedies can be developed and implemented.
In his State of the State address last week, the governor said that increasing correctional officer pay is a priority.
Lawmakers discussed correctional officer pay during interim meetings. According to a report from the state Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety, staffing turnover rates increased in the three agencies under the department from 29.2 percent in 2014 to 32.3 percent in 2016. At the time of the report, West Virginia ranked lowest in the nation for correctional officers’ starting salary ($22,584). Last year, the State Personnel Board voted to approve a $1-an-hour pay increase for state correctional officers, amounting to $2,080.
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