Stop Balancing The Budget On The Backs Of State Employees

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Since the Kentucky government refuses to follow the laws that they made the department of corrections is experiencing record staff shortages. The prisons must continue to operate so staff are required to work mandatory overtime or face disciplinary action. The security staff maintain these prisons by dealing with the criminals that society has deemed unfit to walk free. They risk their lives and safety to enter an environment full of violent predatory inmates because they understand that they are the barrier between these criminals and the community we serve. Have you ever felt sympathy for a victim or do you know someone that has had their lives seriously affected by a violent crime? The perpetrators of those crimes are still around and in many cases are still creating victims or waiting for the day that they will be released back into society to victimize. The only thing between them and more victims is the dedication of corrections employees.

In 2002 Representatives Mike Cherry [retired], Tom McKee [district 78] and Brent Yonts [district 15] proposed a bill [HB 184] to give corrections staff raises for the purpose of staff retention. The bill passed with very little opposition and became a law effective July 15, 2002. The law is KRS 196.160 and states that for employees in positions in state correctional institutions and the Kentucky Correctional Psychiatric Center with duties that regularly and routinely require face-to-face contact with inmates the department shall institute a career retention program including salary improvements earned through extended time in qualifying public service. Salary improvements shall be effected by increasing the base salary of each employee in the career retention program by a set monthly amount after the employee's completion of the first two (2),four (4), six (6), eight (8), and ten (10) years of employment served after, and not prior to, July 1, 2002. The amount of the base salary increase to be awarded an employee after the employee's completion of a qualifying amount of public service under this subsection shall be an amount calculated to recruit and retain qualified correctional personnel. Salary increases required by this subsection shall be in addition to any other increase authorized by law.

The Kentucky government doesn't pay a competitive living wage and there are no raises to cover the ever increasing costs of living. For their dedication to protect and isolate the public from these hazardous conditions Correctional Officers are paid $11.22 an hour. This is not enough to recruit and retain qualified correctional personnel. The prisons are operating with a 30% vacancy rate for Officers. That means that Officers are working 70 or more hours a week. Imagine you are at work, you are close to ending your shift and going home to your family when you get a call from your supervisor telling you that you will have to stay for another 8 hour shift. Now imagine this happening two or three times a week and at times several days in a row. Now imagine you are exhausted and locked in with murderers, rapist and thieves waiting for you to let your guard down. All this for $23,346 a year, more than $900 less than the poverty guideline for a family of four in 2015.

We are not asking for special raises or new legislation. All we ask is that the government honor the law that is already in place. All we ask for is a decent living wage for the hazardous work we accomplish. All we ask, is hope for the future. We watched as the 2015 General Assembly passed legislation making laws more strict for heroin abuse and domestic violence with little regard to those that carry out this legislation. We suffered through the budget crisis with all the other state employees hoping that someday the general assembly and the governor can balance the budget they created. We passed on raises and suffered furloughs to help the government achieve budget stability. It is time that the government helps us. The government needs to stop balancing the budget on the backs of its employees.

The question you may be asking at this point is “How will the government pay for raises?”. The law states that an employee will get the first raise after two years of service. Currently 44% of Officers have less than two years with the department. Almost half of the work force would not be eligible for raises immediately but would have a goal to work towards. Currently the department of corrections has paid $5,367,120.64 in overtime for fiscal year 2015. This amount would cover raises and recruitment costs to bring the department to a full staff compliment.

Sign this petition to let the government know that it is time they think about the employees that hold the government together. The employees that serve the community of voters that put the law makers in office. Sign this petition to show that all state workers need to unite for salary increases and a better living wage. Sign this petition because you understand that the only thing between violent predatory criminals and the public is an ever thinning blue line. Sign this petition because as a citizen of Kentucky you should be appalled that the government does not follow the law it creates!

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