It was a rare glimpse inside West Virginia’s Maximum Security Prison, the Mount Olive Correctional Complex in Fayette County. Four State lawmakers and the head of the Correctional officers union toured the facility. This reporter also went along, but no cameras were allowed inside. Statewide, the prison and jail system is short 500 officers, and has the lowest pay in the six-state region.
“They’re very understaffed, and they’re underpaid compared to surrounding states where they can go and make at least $10,000 dollars more starting out as an officers,” said Del. Joe Canestraro, (D) Marshall.
At Mount Olive, the shortage is critical. The facility is supposed to have a staff of 367 workers. Right now, there are 93 vacancies, and 74 of those openings are for correctional officers. Because of that some officers must work 12 to 16 hours shifts, and become fatigued. Their union says that makes the workplace more dangerous.
“We’ll never be at exactly 100 percent. But if we could get some staffing to give some relief to the officers that are putting in many long hours, as well as support staff,” said Elaine Harris, Communications Workers of America, the union that represents correctional officers.
And all of the overtime is not only dangerous, It is costly. Mount Olive alone, is now spending over 200 thousand dollars a month in overtime pay.
“Well that’s the first that we had heard that number put out. If that’s just this facility, I’m sure that the overtime is going to be staggering from the other facilities across the state and we’re going to have to take a look at that,” said Del. Rodney Miller, (D) Boone County.
But, the legislature is facing another tight budget year.
“At this point the big issue is money and whether West Virginia can come up with enough to pay these officers more, and keep them from quitting their jobs,” said Mark Curtis, 13 News Chief Political Reporter.