Recently a story surfaced referencing a comment made by Governor Mary Fallin’s staff claiming that current low staffing levels at our state prisons is adequate to provide for the safety of the corrections officers and the general public.
Having a correctional facility in my district and hearing from multiple employees, I could not disagree more.
Corrections officers are currently working mandatory overtime and double-shifts. This is not just a temporary thing or a new problem. Without raising pay and attracting new corrections officers, it will continue, day in and day out.
Without a pay raise, we can also expect the situation to get worse. In fact, a pay raise will only be a small step in the direction of recruiting new corrections officers and retaining those who are already there.
Public safety must be a priority for us in the Oklahoma Legislature and real reform of our public safety system, including pay raises should be looked at as soon as possible. I am aware that the budget is not conducive to any pay raises this year, but when our priorities include giving away large tax breaks to corporations who do not need them and spending too much on non-essential services, we arrive at the current public safety crisis we are at today. True conservative policy prioritizes core functions before conveniences.
This year, House members will be looking at the state compensation system, which is rife with a variety of problems. In general, public employees are paid below the market value of their work and that makes it extremely difficult to retain good employees, or in the case of corrections, enough employees. Generally, the state pension system is a slightly higher percentage than in the private sector, but since that percentage is based on salary, the amount that public employees receive in pension benefits is actually less than in the private sector.
I hope that my fellow lawmakers and I will be able to persuade the Governor of the importance of approving pay raises for our hardworking corrections officers.
Never hesitate to contact me. Email me at: Josh.Cockroft@okhouse.gov. Call me at: (405) 557-7349. Follow me on Facebook: Representative Josh Cockroft, and Twitter: @VoteCockroft27.