W.Va. – All West Virginia correctional officers will see their
pay increase by $2,080 annually as of Sept. 2, after a unanimous State
Personnel Board voted Thursday to approve a proposal advanced by Military
Affairs and Public Safety Secretary Jeff Sandy and his leadership team.
The raise equates to $1 an hour, and will
apply to all seven classifications of correctional officers as well as to new
hires. For a starting Correctional Officer 1, for instance, the raise increases
the annual salary to $24,664 or by more than 9 percent.
“A lot of work went into this action,”
Sandy said. “Governor Justice supported this. He stated that we had to do
something for these dedicated employees. Many correctional officers spoke to me
personally about this, and I knew we had to act.”
The long-sought raises will coincide with
a policy change across the department’s correctional agencies – the Regional
Jail Authority and the Division of Juvenile Services as well as the Division of
Corrections – that will allow officer to begin earning overtime after working
more than 40 hours a week. The overtime threshold has been 80 hours during the two-week pay period.
“We are so happy that our corrections
professionals are being recognized for one of the toughest positions in state
government,” said Acting Corrections Commissioner Loita Butcher. “This is a
step in the right direction, and we thank Governor Justice and Secretary Sandy
for their continued support of those who keep the citizens of this state safe.”
Sandy and his team convinced the board to
approve the pay raise and special hiring rate by documenting the serious
turnover and vacancy rates that the state’s prisons, jails and juvenile
facilities have endured for several years.
These facilities together lost 1,219
employees, nearly all of them correctional officers, during the 2013-2014
budget year. The number of separations had risen to 1,359 by the 2015-2016
budget year. Each departure costs the department an estimated $15,835 in lost
training and other expenses. To cover the resulting vacant posts, the
correctional agencies together paid $13.5 million for overtime during the 2016
fiscal year alone.
“We only wish we could do more,” said
Regional Jail Authority Director David Farmer. “We want our dedicated men and
women to know that 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. The department
turned to the State Personnel Board for relief after yet another session of
inaction by the Legislature. Under the department’s proposal, funding 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