CLEVELAND, Ohio – The Cuyahoga County Jail will again have to employ sheriff’s assistants and protective services over the weekend, due to a severe shortage of correctional officers.
Currently, nearly 547 correctional officers work in the prison, including 20 in training and 20 on leave of absence, said Adam Chaloupka, attorney for the Ohio Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association.
A contractual agreement made two years ago by the county stated that for the prison to function properly, there should be at least 698 officers.
The county authorized funds to hire 725 officers.
The lack of staff is the result of several factors. The growing prison population is one of them.
As of Friday, there were 1,617 inmates at the Cuyahoga County Jail, according to a county official. The prison population began to increase in May. The maximum capacity is around 1750.
It won’t be the first time the prison has called for help due to understaffing. In a statement emailed to cleveland.com, Sheriff Christopher Viland said it was mandatory to keep the prison secure.
“I try in all possible ways to assist prison staff in fulfilling their duty to provide safe and effective care to prisoners while ensuring the safety of staff and supporting the functions they are required to perform. Viland said. âWhile the executive and county council have taken unprecedented steps in unilaterally offering significant salary incentives to correctional staff for the purposes of recruitment and retention, these changes are new and have yet to take place. impact on current staff. Assigning Protective Services Officers and Special Assistants as extra help will ease the burden on everyone as we continue to do everything possible to bring personnel on board. “
The county has proposed several initiatives to retain and hire new correctional officers. One of those initiatives, a wider pay scale, went into effect last week.
The offer was approved by the county council and the officers’ union in August. The starting salary for a new hire would range from $ 19.12 to $ 24 per hour. Those who have been working for a year would drop from $ 19.77 to $ 24 an hour. Agents who have invested three years or more could go from $ 20.85 to $ 25.49 to $ 28 per hour.
Officers would also get a bonus of $ 1,000 for perfect attendance in each quarter of the year. Low attendance due to officers missing work has always been a problem that plagued the prison.
Officers will still receive the 2% salary increase at the start of 2022, a negotiation that was made in 2019.
The increase in the prison population is not the only reason for the reduction in staff. Officers have to work 12-hour shifts and if they are required to work overtime, then they are locked up for 16 hours, sometimes without a lunch break, Chaloupka said.
Officers complained about the lack of support from the management team and the constant threats of discipline in an already hostile environment.
âThey (the management team) would rather focus on picky issues than big issues,â Chaloupka said. “They focus on the clock they use, then threaten discipline for using the correct clock, or they demand discipline, ultimately subjecting officers to investigative hearings and disciplinary hearings.”
Chaloupka believes it will take more than a pay rise to recruit and retain officers at the prison.
âIn my opinion, retention relies on the interpersonal skills of the management team,â Chaloupka said. âIf they can develop better interpersonal skills and have more respect for officers, you would have a much higher retention rate. “