TUCSON, Ariz. - Union leaders are speaking out about the staffing crisis at the Pima County Jail. They say overtime for corrections officers is off the chart and more deputies will be pulled in to cover shifts.
KGUN 9 reported earlier this month that deputies are covering shifts at the courthouse because of the corrections officer shortage.
Now the Pima County Deputy Sheriff Association, the largest union, reveals the shortage is much worse.
The Pima County Deputy Sheriff Association paints a bleak picture of the staffing crisis at the Pima County detention center.
"It's a foreshadowing of more danger to come if we don't get the manning situation fixed," Detective Ted Hartenstein, a PCDSA member, said.
The union says corrections officers, or COs, are leaving in droves -- 5.5 per pay period -- putting a severe strain on staffing levels.
"That's 11 COs a month. Even when you're running the academies, you can't replace them fast enough," said Lt. Cameron. He's also a member of the FOP and Pima County Sheriff's Commanders Association.
The union says 422 correction officers are authorized, and the number now is 370.
"In order to keep everything running at the manning levels we have to maintain, it's costing us tremendous overtime money," said Hartenstein.
They're now reaching 4,200 overtime hours per pay period, according to the deputies.
"They can't staff the jail, so part of the jail is on 12 hours with the rest slated to go to 12-hour shifts Dec. 9," Cameron said.
He says Correction Officers are now burning their personal days to avoid fatigue.
"And now we're in such a desperate situation that we have to pull in resources from all over the place to keep the place manned at all," said Hartenstein.
That includes deputies within the department, which is already understaffed. "They are going to allow commissioned deputies to work in the pod as corrections officers for overtime, which will further drive the overtime problem because deputies make more money than COs."
Hartenstein says the staffing crisis continues to impact morale.
Hartenstein: "It's pretty abysmal.
Cavazos: Is that across the board?
Cavazos: Deputies and the Correctional Officers.
Both deputies predict it would take at least two years to return to regular staffing levels.
KGUN 9 reached out to Sheriff Napier and gave him all the information we received. His full response:
We are facing staffing challenges at the Detention Center. As a result, we have had to fill open positions with overtime, adjust schedules and reallocate some other personnel resources. We are examining the possibility of implementing recruiting and retention incentives to help with staffing. We are also working with County Human Resources to find ways to better attract candidates. Hiring of both sworn and corrections staff is a challenge facing many law enforcement agencies. The economy is strong and unemployment is low. Prospective employees have a lot of choices and current employees have opportunities to explore other employment. We believe the current steps we have taken will be temporary, but they are fundamentally necessary.
-- Sheriff Mark Napier