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Pay hikes for corrections officers amid years-long staffing crisis

Starting wage increases take effect next month
Posted at 9:58 PM, Jan 14, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-15 00:19:57-05

TUCSON, Ariz. - The Pima County Sheriff's Department announced Monday that wage increases for correctional officers is taking effect next month.

The pay hike comes as the department deals with a staffing crisis. But is it enough to keep corrections officers from leaving? KGUN9 sat down with Sheriff Mark Napier and the attorney for the Union to find out.

For several years, PCSD has been struggling with recruitment -- and retainment -- of corrections officers.

KGUN9 reported last year corrections officers were clocking 12-hour days to help offset the staffing shortage.

Now, the department believes it found a fix -- at the price of $700,000.

Starting wages for corrections officers are going up from $17.52 an hour to $19.50. Then after a probationary period -- $21.50.

"What we're trying to do is really incentivize it, on the economic end," Sheriff Napier said. "Meaning starting wage, to try to get as many people in the door, and then try to make this the best environment to work in that we can, understanding that working in a jail around the prisoners, there's always going to be stress involved with that."

But Steve Portell, attorney for the Pima County Deputy Sheriff's Association says the pay increase tackles the recruitment issue, but not retainment.

"Experience has told us we're still bleeding people from the 8 to 12-year mark," Portell said. "And we've invested - the county has invested - incredible resources in training people to get to that point. And now we're seeing them walk out to other counties to take better paying jobs."

Sheriff Napier says all staff will see at least a 2.5% raise, with the majority of people seeing an additional 5%. As far as retainment, he says that's always a challenge. The goal right now is to hire new corrections officers.

"It's necessary because we have to be able to recruit people, and the right people into our detention facility," Napier said.

Napier says the department had money in the budget to increase pay without taking a hit.

Last summer, Portell says the Union was told the raise would balance out the number of people leaving the department. He says this fix is just temporary.

"This is a bandaid," Portell said. "And in the past when bandaids have been used to address how poorly we pay our deputies, they don't work out. And we end up losing the very people we need to keep us safe."

Starting wages go up Feb. 3.

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