Missouri spent $26,352,427 in overtime costs to corrections officers in 2018.
Those costs have tripled over the last 5 years, as the department continues to face a growing deficit of corrections officers.
The rapidly increasing costs of overtime appears to correlate with the number of open corrections officer positions.
According to the Department of Corrections, there were 739 open corrections officer positions in 2018.
“It’s extremely bad,” said Gary Gross, executive director of the Missouri Corrections Officers Association. “We’re short-staffed virtually everywhere in the state.”
Gross launched the MCOA in 2000 and has been lobbying the state government on behalf of prison employees.
On average, Missouri corrections officers are the second lowest paid in the nation at a mean annual wage of $30,870, well below the national average annual salary of $47,600.
Area Name Annual mean wage California $71,630 New Jersey $70,400 Massachusetts $66,060 New York $63,990 Alaska $62,550 Nevada $60,610 Oregon $57,790 Hawaii $57,670 Illinois $56,070 Washington $55,270 Connecticut $54,500 Minnesota $51,270 Pennsylvania $51,140 Michigan $49,910 Iowa $49,230 Maryland $48,550 NATIONAL AVERAGE $47,600 Colorado $47,570 New Hampshire $45,380 Vermont $44,460 North Dakota $44,310 Arizona $44,290 Wisconsin $44,040 Utah $43,460 Ohio $43,000 Florida $42,670 Wyoming $42,370 Texas $41,420 Nebraska $40,980 Virginia $40,200 Montana $39,330 Maine $39,180 Idaho $37,690 South Dakota $37,230 North Carolina $36,990 Oklahoma $35,850 South Carolina $35,710 Kansas $35,410 Alabama $35,370 Kentucky $35,160 New Mexico $34,800 Louisiana $34,540 West Virginia $34,090 Indiana $34,060 Georgia $33,960 Arkansas $33,810 Tennessee $33,510 Missouri $30,870 Mississippi $29,040
(*Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)
“While the state is hiring a pretty good number of people, they don’t seem to be staying,” Gross said. “They seem to be rolling over certainly as fast as they’re getting hired.”
The department has admitted that retention is also an ongoing challenge.
“The Department of Corrections is working closely with Governor Parson’s administration to explore recruitment and retention focused pay raises for Corrections staff,” DOC spokesman Garry Brix wrote in an emailed response to questions. “Efforts such as pay increases are intended to decrease vacancies which will in turn, decrease the amount of comp time paid each year.”
Gross said increased retention and better recruitment aren’t going to solve the problem.
“That would certainly all just be Band-aids,” Gross said. “That would be a temporary fix, they’re going to have to increase the pay.”
State Rep. Kip Kendrick, D-Columbia, said one of his goals in the 2019 legislative session is to boost state employee compensation, particularly for corrections officers.
“It’s not uncommon to see Missouri corrections officers heading up to Iowa on a very regular basis because of the pay, of the pay difference,” said Kendrick. “They can get started there at a higher wage but then get guaranteed step raises along the way.”
Jefferson City has the ninth highest concentration of corrections/jail staff in the nation, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The House member who represents that area, Dave Griffith, R-Jefferson City, agrees that increasing retention should be a priority.
“If we’re training them and they’re leaving two months later, then we’ve wasted a lot of state money on that so, we’ve got to find a solution to that,” Griffith said.
The full breakdown of employee overtime for the Missouri Department of Corrections from 2013-2018 can be viewed by following this link.