Increase in Prisoners Costing $33M in Overtime

Millions being spent on overtime to staff overcrowded jails

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    The Philadelphia Prison System paid out $33.4 million in overtime last year . According to NBC10.com's analysis of compensation data we obtained on more than 27-thousand city workers, that is the third-highest amount of overtime earned by a department -- topped only police and firefighters.

    Today, prison officials are defending the numbers, saying it basically come down to another numbers problem they deal with daily -- too many prisoners and not enough correctional officers.

    The city’s six main prisons, all located in Northeast Philadelphia, have seen an influx of inmates over the past year, according a spokesperson with the Philadelphia Prison System. Prisoner population is now averaging 9,100 inmates a month – up 10-percent over the year before.

    Officials say the jump comes as the city takes a tougher stance on guns in Philadelphia.

    “The rise in population is due to inmates receiving high bail costs for gun charges and inmates who are being held in contempt of court for outstanding warrants,” Philadelphia Prison System spokesperson Shawn Hawes tells NBC10.com. The prisons hold suspects awaiting trial and those convicted of crimes.

    To cope with the rise, correctional officers are taking on extra shifts – some mandatory, others voluntary. The prison system has the right to extend an officer’s eight-hour shift by an additional four hours to cover understaffing, Hawes says. Officers can volunteer to work a double shift, but are not allowed to work 24 hours straight.

    There are more than 1,600 correctional officers working for the system – with many receiving OT for the extra time. The average pay for a correctional officer is just short of $40,000, according to city compensation data obtained by NBC10.com.

    However, because of the amount of overtime being worked, officers are increasing their take-home pay by an average of $18,000. More than 600 correctional officers earned at least $20,000 in overtime.

    In 2012, the Philadelphia Prison System spent $33.4 million in overtime, nearly $5 million more than 2011, according to compensation data. While the extra compensation may be welcomed, the president of the union representing the officers is worried about safety.

    “When it’s overcrowded like that we’re concerned because the staff and inmates is in danger,” said Local 159 president Lorenzo North.

    Depending on the prison, two officers normally handle between 58 and 64 prisoners. When there are not enough officers, only one watches over the same number of inmates.

    Hawes says when only one officer is working, the prison restricts inmate movement from their cells. She says officials are taking steps to keep prison staff safe during the overcrowding.

    “As always, the safety and well-being of the PPS staff and those in custody are our primary concern,” she said. She adds there are regular unit shutdowns to check for weapons, cell phones and drugs.

    Efforts are being made to boost the number of correctional officers. The prison system is actively recruiting. North says one class of new recruits just graduated their academy and two more classes of recruits are currently in training. All told, that should put about 120 new officers on the force.

    TOP 10 CORRECTIONAL OFFICER OVERTIME IN 2012

    JOB TITLE ANNUAL SALARY OVERTIME TOTAL PAY
    Correctional Officer #1 $40,591 $79,368 $119,959
    Correctional Officer #2 $40,791 $75,399 $116,190
    Correctional Officer #3 $40,591 $71,186 $111,777
    Correctional Officer #4 $41,191 $71,084 $112,275
    Correctional Officer #5 $41,191 $70,273 $111,464
    Correctional Officer #6 $41,391 $69,646 $111,037
    Correctional Officer #7 $41,591 $68,528 $110,119
    Correctional Officer #8 $39,966 $65,986 $105,952
    Correctional Officer #9 $41,191 $64,796 $105,987
    Correctional Officer #10 $38,804 $63,667 $102,471