State lawmakers allot $2 million for overtime pay as prison guard vacancies grow

“Our inmate population is going up and our staffing’s going down,” former DOC Executive Director Rick Raemisch told lawmakers

Photo by Amanda Slater, Creative Commons, Flickr
Photo by Amanda Slater, Creative Commons, Flickr

State lawmakers allocated $2 million to the Department of Corrections on Thursday to help cover the costs of overtime pay for prison guards for the remainder of the fiscal year.

The DOC is spending millions of dollars each month in overtime to maintain security as it struggles to fill vacant positions, and the cost is projected rise, according to state budget documents prepared for the Joint Budget Committee.

A December investigation by Fox 31 found the vacancies represent some of the largest vacancies for this job the state has ever seen. It’s also creating dangerous working conditions in the state’s prisons, according to the report.

Rick Raemisch, the former executive director for the Colorado Department of Corrections, told the Joint Budget Committee earlier this month that correctional officers have the most dangerous job in state government.

“Every minute of their working day they are in harm’s way,” Raemisch said. He added, ”Not only are they with convicted felons, their locked in. They can’t run.”

Meanwhile, assaults on inmates and correctional officers are increasing, according to the department. In 2018, there were five assaults on staff resulting in “serious injury,” according to the department.  

Correctional officers’ use of force has also increased, jumping nearly 60 percent since 2014, according to the department.

The DOC says the turnover rate for entry-level correctional officers is roughly 26 percent annually.

A key driver, officials say, is that correctional officers are taking different jobs elsewhere. Officials said these guards are paid less than most police officers.

At the same time, the state’s prison population has reached 20,200, a three-year high.  

“Our inmate population is going up and our staffing’s going down,” Raemisch told the committee.

The state’s new prison chief, Dean Williams, was confirmed by the Senate on Wednesday. In addition to high staff turnover, Williams will inherit a crowded prison system.

There are fewer than 100 state prison beds open in the state, not including community corrections beds or private prison beds.

Gov. Jared Polis is considering ways to reduce the prison population before his administration releases a budget for the Department of Corrections by Jan. 31.

Polis has not yet indicated whether he wants to open Centennial South Correctional Facility, a prison in Cañon City built for solitary confinement but closed in 2012 after the state stopped holding prisoners in long-term isolation. The prison would cost about $28 million to staff and retool. The latest budget for the Department of Corrections was about $900 million.

2 COMMENTS

  1. no more prisons no more funding private prisons – force DOC to do there job- release the 40+% that are past their PED date- replace the Parole Board where each member is paid 90,000+ to NOT do their job- horrible DOC in CO- Keep the prison space for murders/child predators/rapist/let those that are at low risk (2) and past their PED out on ISPI or other- just let them out this is ridiculous-get a check n balance on the parole officers-one can let you continue treatment while another hits you with 2 more yrs for missing curfew-its horrible- free up the needed space with needed release of low risk offenders whom are fully compliant- This system is a joke with a blank check from us as taxpayers-its hurting innocent families and children-and offenders that have completed course/0 write ups/fully compliant and still no parole and have to wait another year to there MRD- Parole/comm are in place for a reason and not being utilized while DOC has there hand out for more funds- close CMRC is a sespool of wrong-make DOC abide by the rules-release them they are not $$$ signs they are husbands fathers and grandfathers that have not committed large felonies-just had a bad po that wanted to fry them totally unfair-with a DA that just more convictions- totally unfair-no checks n balances-nothing – Please Mr. Williams and Gov Polis see the error in this matter and correct it fast – no new prisons needed-n private prisons mis handling our inmates for profit- CMRC is withholding medications from inmate for 5+ months if they ever get them- there staff is not trained correctly – making 14.00 hr – bringing in drugs/ horrible private prison not allowed in city limits- we need to shut down all GEO Prisons in co-they are for profit and don’t know how to run a facility-inmated don’t get to go outside-po’s laughing about rapes- terrible system and we are paying them to mistreat our inmates that are back in prison on a technicality turned into a new sentence for curfew violation- horrible unfair unjust-

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