A continuing shortage of staff and a large number of overtime at the Department of Corrections, among others, were discussed during the agency’s budget request hearing on Monday.
The department hired 16 recruits last year, said director Joseph Carbullido, and has promoted 35 uniformed officers over the past year to fill the need for management and command positions.
But according to Carbullido, the agency still has 55 correctional officer positions that need to be filled.
Carbullido said they submitted applications to the Administration Ministry for 30 Correctional Officer I positions, but the fast-track process came to a halt during the pandemic.
Civilian workers were needed to fill administrative positions such as a computer systems analyst and an asset and supply management officer, Carbullido said.
A total of $ 15,786,541 for the Adult Correctional Facility and the Hagatna Detention Facility has been requested for fiscal year 2022, to fund salaries, benefits and overtime for the 186 uniformed officers.
The ministry also requested $ 878,360 for overtime in fiscal year 2022, but Carbullido said that may not be enough for the entire year.
In fiscal 2021, he said, the agency was awarded $ 814,928 for overtime, but had a deficit.
“We had to reprogram our funds to cover the planned expenses incurred, which now have an authorized level of $ 3,049,893. As of May 17, 2021, the DOC has spent a total of $ 2,195,995,” Carbullido told lawmakers.
The high level of overtime spending was a symptom of the staff shortage, he said. Resignations, retirements and continued military deployments have resulted in DOC having a 12-hour schedule with five working days and two days off per week.
In order to correct the overtime problem, the staff had to be adjusted, Carbullido said.
“We are losing officers as we speak. I have signed resignations and GG1s for resignations almost every week. It is difficult to keep hiring to see officers leaving again,” he said.
The agency lost 43 agents last year, said Vice President Tina Muña Barnes. Senator Chris Duenas said Carbullido needs to sit down with the governor and sort out the staffing issue, in order to avoid an emergency in the department.
Staff could be covered by the agency’s overtime expenses, Duenas said.
One of the issues that needed to be addressed was compensation for correctional officers, Carbullido said, and he hoped that a 25% incentive compensation proposal for correctional officers would be put in place.
But it was also about finding the right person for the job, he said.
“It takes a special person to stand there 12 to 4 hours in front of all these detainees and all the dangers they have to go through,” he said.
The conditions at DOC were different from those of other law enforcement agencies, he said.
The deputy superintendent of penal institutions, Major Antone Aguon, told lawmakers that new recruits have difficulty once they complete their training and reach the floors of the penal institutions.
The extra pay for overtime was not always enough to keep more experienced officers, he said, as officers suffer from burnout from long working hours.
Some officers had been Correctional Officer I for almost 20 years, Aguon said.
Aguon said building a new correctional facility, which is currently in the planning stage, could help boost the agency’s morale. Carbullido said the department had received $ 250,000 from the Home Office for a master plan for the new prison and was in the first phase of a 14-phase process.
Supply for the new prison was blocked in 2016, Carbullido said, and he had been working to get it started.
Aguon said a report would be ready to be presented to senators by mid-August.
Blind spots and other issues in the prison made conditions unsafe for officers and inmates, Aguon said. More employees would want to stay if the work environment improves, Aguon said.
“Even if we could get a 320 to 400 bed building, where I could put these people there, it would go a long way. It has been done in other jurisdictions on the continent. It is not impossible. We are. just going to need the political backing and the backing, ”Aguon said.
Carbullido said obtaining the new prison was one of his goals before retirement.
Contact reporter Joe Taitano II at [email protected]