MA Correctional Officer Pay Parity
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Dear Governor, House Speaker, Senetors and Legislative Representatives,
I am a Correction Officer at the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office and a member of the Massachusetts Correction Officers Federated Union. I wanted to write you this letter in hopes of obtaining your support for an issue that is of vital importance to me and my family, as well as the families of each and every one of my brother and sister Officers. That issue is pay parity and fair wages for Correction Officers working at the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office. Our Officers are assigned to the arduous task of working behind the walls of the Dartmouth Jail and House of Corrections, as well as the Ash Street Jail and Regional Lockup in New Bedford. They perform the same duties as the counterparts at each of the other County Facilities as well as the Department of Corrections, but are paid a substantially less amount on average.
As I am sure you are aware, back in 2010 all County Sheriffs Employees were absorbed into the State for the purposes of Health Insurance and Retirement, essentially branding all of us as State Employees. During this transition time we were all brought into the Group Insurance Commission and our insurance premiums were scheduled to increase from 5% to 25%, which was going to cause a financial hardship for all of our Officers. We were fortunate to obtain a stay from this increase until a solution could be found. Some sense of relief came in the form of a $10,000.00 increase to our base salary, which offset our insurance costs as well as putting some money in our pockets.
I speak on behalf of all of my Brother and Sister Correction Officers when I say that we are extremely grateful for the efforts that were made on our behalf by our Legislators to secure a decent wage for our Officers. We have not forgotten the hard work and effort that was put forth by them on our behalf.How could we, after all this increase literally brought many of our Officers out of poverty. We had at that time, several Officerswho qualified for State assistance programs. For example we had members of our agency who were receiving MassHealth, WIC, SNAP benefits as well as fuel assistance to name a few. Several of our Officers were able to avoid losing their homes to foreclosure as a result of this increase. Again, I cannot express enough the gratitude we feel towards the Legislators who made this increase a reality for our Officers and their families.
The Officers who are employed at Bristol County face dangers every day that rival that of the Officers employed withinthe DOC. We deal with an inmate population coming in from cities and towns in Bristol County that are dealing with overwhelming drug addiction issues, gang populations and violent crime. We hold these individuals during their pre-trial period while they await an outcome on their case. Whether they are charged with minor offenses or murder and rape, if they are arrested in Bristol County, we house them. We also house sentenced individuals who are held for two and a half years or less.
Our Officers are tasked with housing these individuals and administering care, custody and control during their time at our facilities. Much of our inmate population is infected with contagious diseases and the risk for contraction by our Officers is always present through their daily responsibilities and interactions with these inmates. Whether it is exposure to blood as a result of an inmate on inmate assault, being stuck by a makeshift weapon during a search, or being bitten, spit at, or having human waste thrown at you by an assaultive inmate, there are many ways for our staff to contract these infectious diseases.
More so now than ever with the opioid epidemic that is devastating our surrounding cities and towns, our Officers arecoming into contact with these dangerous substances. We have had Officers who have had to be administered Narcan after overdosing on Fentanyl by way of inadvertent exposure. The thought that an Officer is potentially at risk of losing their life because of the substances that they are in contact with regularlyin their work environment, is troubling to say the least. As we make every attempt to safeguard our Officers from these risks, the offenders who are introducing them to our facilities arefinding new ways to evade our attempts and bring in more and more potentially lethal drugs.
These risks outlined above are in addition to the ever present risk of being physically assaulted within the facility. Statistically speaking the average Correction Officer will be seriously assaulted twice in their career. We have had several instances of Officers being assaulted by inmates in the past few months resulting in hospitalizations and serious injuries. Given the increasing population within our facilities of individuals with serious and often untreated mental illness, the number of assaults is sure to increase as well.
It is also important to know that the dangers associated with our work do not end when we punch out at the end of our shift. Our Officers unlike DOC Officers for the most part, live in the same communities as the inmates who are in our custody. Whether we’re out buying groceries, pumping gas, or out for dinner with our families, there is always a chance of encountering a former inmate and potentially facing a dangerous situation. Fair compensation is the only thing that offsets the stresses of this job and the dangers we face daily in and out of work.
The MCOFU will be looking to introduce legislation in the very near future to attempt to rectify this issue. I am counting on your support for any legislation that would positively impact the Correction Officers who work for the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office. I will be contacting you again once this legislation is introduced to confirm your support for our cause.
In closing I would like to take an opportunity to thank youonce again for any support you have given us in the past, as well as any efforts made by you in the future to assist us with this issue. The issue of pay parity is one that if realized would be life-changing for all of our Officers and their families. After all we are all essentially doing the same job whether at a DOC facility or a County Jail. I look forward to receiving your response to this letter and anticipate working with you to achieve this goal.
Lieutenant Barry Ferreira
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