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Correctional officers, state agree on pay raise

Delaware Public Media

Delaware’s correctional officers are poised to get a pay raise next year after two months of negotiations.

The Correctional Officers’ Association of Delaware, which represents most rank-and-file prison guards, approved a new agreement Monday night.

Under the plan, starting salaries for officers will jump by about $5,000 to $40,000 starting July 1. They’ll then increase to $43,000 next summer.

Gov. John Carney (D) called it “a really important step.”

“We have a significant challenge in hiring new correctional officers, attracting people to the pool and then getting them hired and part of it is compensation,” Carney said.

There are about 180 correctional officer vacancies currently, leading to significant amounts mandatory overtime that guards say leads to significant burnout.

As part of the agreement, a new state committee would study ways to cut those overtime hours, which totaled nearly $39 million over the two most recent fiscal years, or roughly 38 percent of all overtime paid to public workers.

The group will also review ways for officers to advance in their career.

Geoff Klopp, head of the Correctional Officers’ Association of Delaware, says the news has been a morale boost.

“I can tell you that the atmosphere has changed immediately inside of the correctional facilities for the staff members to know that the governor and the governor’s office is engaged,” Klopp said.

Hiring more prison guards, buying new cameras for James T. Vaughn Correctional Center and overhauling the corrections system in general are among Carney’s top budget priorities.

In all, the new contract and Carney’s proposals total $23 million next year.

Prison issues have overshadowed much of the legislative conversation ever since an unknown number of inmates took over a building at James T. Vaughn in February, sparking an 18-hour hostage crisis.

Correctional officer Steven Floyd died during the standoff and a criminal investigation remains ongoing, leading Carney to say he was “disappointed” charges haven’t been filed yet.

The new contract agreement will still have to go through the state budget process.

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