Department of Corrections
Prison System Launches 40-Hour Work Week; Change Results in 6.67 Percent Pay Raise for Correctional Officers
FRANKFORT, Ky. – Governor Ernie Fletcher and Corrections Commissioner John D. Rees today announced that correctional officers would receive a 6.67 percent raise as a result of a change in the way they are compensated for their work.
Kentucky correctional officers are often required to work over 40 hours a week due to the nature of the job and staff shortages, yet only get paid for 37.5 hours. For work up to 40 hours, correctional officers receive 2.5 hours compensatory time, while all work over 40 hours is paid at time and half overtime.
“The men and women who work in Kentucky prisons provide an important shield to our communities against inmates who are housed behind those walls,” said Governor Fletcher. “These state employees are as important as the razor wire, concrete, metal and security technology that’s there. Making this change in the way they are compensated will help us attract and keep the best and brightest in these important positions.”
By providing payment for the work rather than compensatory time, the commonwealth will improve the salaries of correctional officers and reduce growth of compensatory time. Correctional officers are at the bottom of pay nationwide, and Kentucky lags far behind its neighboring states in pay.
“Kentucky correctional officers put their lives on the line each and every day to protect the public - yet their pay is well below that of their colleagues in surrounding states. This change is one step in correcting that inadequacy,” said Larry Bland, an officer at Kentucky State Penitentiary and President, Barkley Lodge #60, Fraternal Order of Police.
Corrections officials hope this increase in starting salary will decrease turnover and have a consequential effect in the reduction of training costs. Last year the Department of Corrections hired 627 new correctional officers and experienced a turnover of 27.8 percent. The cost of this turnover is difficult to calculate, however, it directly impacts recruitment, training and overtime costs. The high turnover also negatively affects the overall morale of the Department.
“This raise is a good start in achieving our goal and that is raising the starting salary of correctional officers to that of the average of their peers in surrounding states,” said Rees. “I believe this, along with the 1.8 percent increase correctional officers received in their starting salary with the governor’s wage adjustment program, will help slow the revolving door turnover problem we have. Because what we have found is this, if we can keep an employee for five years, the odds of that employee becoming a career corrections professional are drastically improved. We must do more to focus our efforts and attention on our younger or less tenured staff.”
The Department of Corrections has more than 2,000 correctional officers working in 13 state institutions supervising over 11,000 felons on a daily basis across this Commonwealth. This change will cost $3.5 million this fiscal year. A Kentucky correctional officer’s current starting salary is $20,650.56 and will increase as a result of this 40-hour work week change to $22,027,20. The average starting salary of correctional officers in surrounding states is currently $25,565.
The Department of Corrections is able to fund this change through savings it has realized through the competitive outsourcing of food services, savings from the University of Kentucky CorrectCare medical network, and other efficiencies garnered through professional management.