Latest News, WVPA Sharing

West Virginia’s correctional officers getting pay raise


The State Journal

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The State Personnel Board has approved a $1 an hour pay raise for West Virginia’s 2,600-plus correctional officers.

The increase, which takes effect Sept. 2, will boost pay for correctional officers by $2,080 a year, with a starting Correctional Officer 1 earning $24,664 — an increase in excess of 9 percent. The pay hike applies to all seven classifications of correctional officers.

Military Affairs and Public Safety Secretary Jeff Sandy said the change had the support of the Justice administration, adding a “lot of work” went into the action.

“Many correctional officers spoke to me personally about this, and I knew we had to act,” he said in a release issued July 27.

The raises coincide with a policy change throughout within the Regional Jail Authority and the Division of Juvenile Services as well as the Division of Corrections that will allow officers to begin earning overtime pay after working more than 40 hours a week.

Up to now, correctional officers didn’t receive overtime pay until they’d logged 80 hours in a two-week period.

“In 2014 the Legislative Auditor actually documented how West Virginia ranked in comparison to other states and the federal system regarding correctional officer pay,” said Lawrence Messina, director of communications for the West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety. “That audit … provided a lot of detail about the turnover. What the figures showed is that, West Virginia, at that time, had the second lowest starting salary of any state in the country; since then, Kentucky (raised the pay of its correctional officers) and overtook us.

“We can’t ignore the fact that we’ve had the lowest starting salary for correctional officers of anywhere in the country. If you look at our neighboring states the difference is considerable, and it’s definitely considerable compared to the federal system.”

DMAPS convinced the board to approve the pay raise and special hiring rate by documenting the turnover and vacancy rates that the state’s prisons, jails and juvenile facilities have been grappling with for several years — losing a combined 1,219 employees, nearly all of them correctional officers, during the 2013-2014 budget year. By the 2015-16 budget year the number of separations had risen to 1,359, with each departure costing the department an estimated $15,835 in lost training and other expenses. During the 2016 fiscal year the correctional agencies paid out a combined $13.5 million in overtime costs to man the vacant shifts.

“It has to be one of the most challenging jobs in all of West Virginia,” Messina said. “It’s a critical public safety mission these people (do) around-the-clock, 365 days a year.”

Acting Corrections Commissioner Loita Butcher called the pay hike “a step in the right direction,” while Regional Jail Authority Director David Farmer said it’s telling workers “we appreciate what they do.”

Most of West Virginia’s correctional officer positions are at classified levels one through four. Of those 2,640 full-time positions, nearly one in four was vacant as of July 1. MAPS turned to the State Personnel Board for relief after the Legislature failed to address the problem. Under the department’s proposal, funding that had been allotted to long-term vacancies will cover the pay increases.

“We have all been advocating for several years that these employees receive better compensation for putting themselves on the front lines daily,” said Denny Dodson, acting director of the Division of Juvenile Services. “I do believe that this is positive first step to support our correctional staff, and hopefully we can achieve more for our employees in the future.”

See more from The State Journal

Comments are closed.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

And get our latest content in your inbox

Invalid email address