More GOP Budget Insanity In Wisconsin: Dept of Corrections Edition

There have been competing articles in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about the issues surrounding the various Wisconsin Department Of Correction facilities. Much of it relates to budget issues and employment issues. Apparently the DOC can’t hire enough guards and security personnel to keep the facilities safe and running correctly.

And on Tuesday, MJS ran an article front page just below the masthead: A Wisconsin worker nearly tripled his pay last year by working 95 hours a week and others cashed in, as well. Apparently one employee worked enough overtime to out earn his bosses and the governor and then retired! I don’t begrudge the officer making his move…the system let him and he gamed the system.

But 95 hours a week? Can anyone effectively do their job working 95 hours a week, no matter what it is? Doesn’t this put the guard at risk? Doesn’t this put the other guards at risk? Doesn’t this put the other staff at risk? Doesn’t this put those incarcerated at risk?

So we are short handed and can’t staff the facilities that we have. And these facilities are full to capacity. So what does Attorney General Brad Schimel think we should do? Well this is pulled from an article where the AG is criticizing the prison plans of the Democratic gubernatorial candidates…but it certainly exhibits the total disconnect in Madison around law enforcement and incarceration:

Schimel said the state’s current approach on addressing recidivism is appropriate, and he supports building a new prison to reduce crowding in existing facilities to ensure safety for correctional officers and that rehabilitation programs are effective.

So how do we staff new facilities if we can’t staff current facilities?

And just this morning, the good old MJS featured this story on the front page: Pay raises not on table despite prison staffing shortage!

Facing ballooning overtime costs amid a stubborn staffing shortage in Wisconsin prisons, lawmakers in control of state government are not yet putting forward a pay bump to entice new correctional officers.

Gov. Scott Walker and Republican legislative leaders acknowledge that having too few workers in state prisons is a long-standing challenge, but none are voicing support for putting more money into salaries or benefits following a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel report showing staffing shortages opened the door for more than 500 state workers —most of them at the Department of Corrections — to make more than $20,000 in overtime last year.

But Republican leaders say prison officials have offered current and prospective employees significant financial incentives to cure the staffing problems, and that the strong economy exacerbates the challenge in hiring new workers.

“With a record low 2.8% unemployment rate and more people working in Wisconsin than ever before, we can’t afford to have anyone on the sidelines,” Walker spokeswoman Amy Hasenberg said. “The worker shortage is a nationwide challenge, and we will continue our historic investments in worker training and education moving forward to help get more people into the workforce.”

Hey! The word out of Washington is lower unemployment yields higher wages. It’s all part of the master plan. If you want quality employees in quantity…you need to pay up!

By the way, according to the linked article, officers have gotten a number of pay increases over the past few years…and in January the starting wage will be $16.55 per hour. Think about that. The national push is $15.00 minimum wage for…you know…minimum wage jobs…do you want fries with that? And we are asking men and women to take jobs that put their personal safety at risk for $16.55? Really?

New hires are getting $2,000 signing bonuses though.

From our quotable GOP leader in Madison, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald:

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) said state officials could try increasing wages and benefits, but the nature of the job of a correctional officer will always be a hurdle if there are less-stressful alternatives.

“You can always look at wages and benefits and try to pump those up but I think in the environment that we’re operating in, it’s gonna be tough,” Fitzgerald said. “I don’t know that that’s the solution right now.”


Oh and then there is the issue of finding the money in the state budget. Well obviously if you hire more people some of the money will come from the overtime no longer being paid…but guess what…we had a budget surplus working that could have been reassigned…but no…the governor had to do his election year gimmick give back and sales tax holiday instead.



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