Mo. expected to spend $17M in CO overtime costs this year
The state continues to struggle to hire and retain COs, forcing current officers and other prison staff to work long hours
By CorrectionsOne Staff
CHILLICOTHE, Mo. — Correctional officers working overtime in short-staffed Missouri prisons is expected to cost the state a pretty penny.
MissouriNet reports that Missouri is on pace to spend $17 million in correctional officer overtime costs this year, which is nearly double what it spent in 2015. The state continues to struggle to hire and retain COs, forcing current officers and other prison staff to work long hours.
The amount of people working at Missouri’s 20 prisons is shrinking while the inmate population continues to rise as it tops 33,000. There are about 500 open CO positions, which raises concerns over prison safety. In order to help fill some of the void, some COs are being bused to other facilities to help out.
State Rep. Kevin Engler has said that increasing pay for COs would will help the state relieve overtime.
“They’re not competitively paid in their markets and therefore we are always shorthanded. When we’re shorthanded, we have to have people work overtime and they get time-and-a-half,” says Engler. “It’s not a pleasant work environment and then you’re not given a choice. You can’t go home because we can’t let prisoners out. We can’t just give everybody the night off because offenders have to be guarded.”
Missouri currently has the lowest pay for state workers in the nation, with average annual pay of $39,682, according to a report by the state.