Budgetary pressure in the State of Pennsylvania has prompted a hiring freeze within the state’s prison system that is expected to have a detrimental effect on the correctional officer’s union and subsequently on the maintenance of safety at the state’s prison facilities.
Officials at the Pennsylvania State Corrections Officers Association stated that prison staffing has stalled and remains at the same level it was at in 2008. What is troubling about that statistic is that the inmate population has grown by more than 5,000 prisoners over the same six year period. The primary concern among the state’s correctional officers is their own safety and officials say that the hiring freeze that has been imposed will almost certainly increase the danger that officers face.
According to union representatives for the state’s correctional officers, violent attacks against prison guards and other correctional facility personnel have increased steadily since the hiring numbers leveled off in 2008. Data from the Department of Corrections shows that there were 13 assaults reported that year at Pennsylvania’s two Luzene Country state prisons – the State Correctional Institution at Retreat and the State Correctional Institution at Dallas. At the same facilities there were 21 assaults in 2013 and there have been two so far in 2014.
The hiring freeze is all about funding and according to union representatives, that puts added pressure on correctional officers because they are then forced into mandatory overtime with many of them putting in 16-hour days on a regular basis.
These representatives say that one way to solve the issue would be for the state to implement mandatory staffing numbers. They say that it wasn’t long ago that there were three officers assigned to each housing unit within a given facility but now they are lucky if they have one in each unit.
The most recent correctional trainees graduated in early June and have become full time officers. The 42 graduates will be given one year of employment on a conditional basis despite the hiring freeze.