Gov. Evers announces pay raise for correctional officers, state security staffers
MADISON, Wis. (WBAY) - Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers has announced a pay increase for correctional officers and other state security workers.
Evers says the $3 per hour raise is for correctional officers, sergeants, psychiatric care technicians, youth counselors and related supervisors. It starts March 13.
The raise is in response to high vacancy rates at Wisconsin Department of Corrections and Wisconsin Department of Health Services institutions. First Alert Investigation has been covering these staffing issues for months. WBAY anchor and investigative reporter Sarah Thomsen found that the staffing crisis has been costing taxpayers millions of dollars. “I cannot begin to convey to you the frustration, the anger and the bitterness felt among our ranks,” Sgt. Paul Oosterhouse, Department of Corrections employee told lawmakers at a hearing.
“We believe one of the more important things we can do is offer better compensation,” DOC Director of Communications John Beard told Action 2 News. “We hope it helps with both recruitment and retention being able to offer a more competitive salary. It’s a challenging job, but it’s also a rewarding job.”
More than 5,000 employees will receive the pay increase.
“Our security personnel have faced higher workloads, pressures, and hazards throughout the pandemic, and deserve to be fairly compensated,” said Gov. Evers. “My initial proposal called for an ongoing $5 per hour increase for security pay, which the Legislature refused to fund. This increase will provide a much-needed boost not only for recruitment and retention but also to recognize the critical role these workers have across our state.”
The pay increase is an add-on to the 2021-2023 State of Wisconsin Compensation Plan. The increase will continue through June 17, 2023, unless there is an extension approved. The governor says the increase will be agency-funded with some use of American Rescue Plan Act funds.
“Governor Evers did ask for a $5 per hour increase initially in his compensation plan and companion bill that would’ve been done through state revenue and been permanent,” Beard said.
According to Beard, several raises were approved at the start of the year and they included a $2 per hour raise for any staff who works at a maximum institution and a $5 raise for those employed at a prison with a vacancy rate of 40% or higher.
The governor announced the compensation after lawmakers failed to agree on legislation that would have implemented a permanent raise for these employees.
“This is a major step towards making compensation more competitive for a sizeable portion of our agency’s workforce that provides direct care,” said DOC Secretary Kevin Carr. “When this administration took office, starting pay for a correctional officer was $16.65 per hour. After previous pay increases, that increased to $19.89 per hour. Now, with this add-on, the starting rate for all correctional officers will go to $22.89 per hour, which is a 37 percent increase in just three years. We will continue to advocate for better compensation for our staff, focusing on the areas of greatest need.”
Rep. David Steffen, (R) Howard, issued a statement to Action 2 News regarding this announcement:
“Several of Wisconsin’s prisons have been at a breaking point staffing level for the last two years, including the maximum-security facility in Allouez. While I support Governor Evers’ use of federal funds for immediate, critical relief, Evers needs to work with the communities and legislature on sustainable, long-term solutions to this challenge.”
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