The Short staffing issues remain at the Lincoln State’s prison despite of increase in pay and bonuses.
Short Staffing Issue in Lincoln State Prison
Despite the vacancies and turnover of correction officers and corporals in recent years, there is still a problem from the watchdog office which is the short staffing issue.
On the report from Inspector General for Corrections Doug Koebernick that there is more work to be done especially on the short staffing issue.
In a report, they emphasize that retention will be the main focus going forward as other states and agencies are increasing their own correctional salaries. The state correction spokeswoman commented that there has been a shortage of staff issues since 2021 despite the slight increase in recent months.
Two years ago, there was a significant increase in the correction officers pushing the beginning pay for a corporal to $28 an hour. However, the county jails in Douglas and Lancaster responded by hiking their starting salaries to $30 per hour and $28.64 per hour, respectively. This will prevent them from short staffing issues.
According to Koebernick, the short staffing issues were burdening the Reception and Treatment Center in Lincoln, this is a prison that was merged years ago as they were operating as a separate Lincoln Correctional Center and Diagnostic and Evaluation Center.
In a report by the Nebraska Examiner, workers at the merged person complain that the short staffing issues made them feel unsafe and less secure in the year 2023. Also, the bonuses granted to new employees which can help to boost recruiting had ended this year with mixed results.
Koebernick, wanted that the department would evaluate the effectiveness of bonuses and if they are not effective, then they have to look for other strategies. In the statistics reported that the overall staff turnover in 2022 was 16% down compared to 25% a couple of years ago. In another report, the short staffing issue involved was more on the prison security staff.
Overtime Expenses High
In another report published by Lincoln Journal Star, another problem of the short staffing issue are the nursing job and psychology job. More than half of the nursing staff are unfilled and 65% of psychologists jobs are vacant. Also, after the previous medical director, Dr. Harbans Deol, left the Nebraska prison system has not yet hired a new medical director. Koebernick added that the position is one of the five more important agencies that should be filled up. According to the report of OpentheBooks.com, it is one of the high-paying jobs under $309,000 a year in 2022 but still, they are part of the short staffing issues.
An effect of the employee shortfall has been a rise in overtime costs to fill open positions.
In fiscal year ’21-’22, the state spent $21.8 million on overtime at the Department of Corrections, a small drop from the prior year but more than three times the overtime costs in 2013.
According to the study, overtime compensation for specific corporals and prison officers has dramatically increased in the last year as a result of a new union deal that stipulated double pay for overtime work. The department’s top 30 overtime earners were also paid between $58,510 and $128,880 each overtime pay and over and above their annual salaries.
New Director “Hands-On” on the Short Staffing Issues
Koebernick was encouraged by the new director that was hired by Gov. Jim Pillen in April, he is Rob Jeffreys.
According to Koebernick, Jeffreys seems intent on limiting the overuse of solitary confinement, a measure that might exacerbate mental diseases.
Koebernick stated that Jeffreys has visited individual jails across the state far more frequently, which has prompted feedback from staff and inmates. By these, it will help to solve the short staffing issue.