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Delaware DOC signs new contracts with corrections and probation officer unions

Sophia Schmidt
Delaware Public Media

Delaware’s Department of Correction signed new contracts with the unions representing correctional officers and probation officers last week.

The DOC’s staffing woes hung over the contract negotiations: last fall, the agency reported that roughly 15 percent of its corrections officer positions were vacant, with similar vacancy rates in its administrative and probation divisions.

Corrections Officers of Delaware President Brian Clarke says that vacancy rate has only risen in the intervening months.

Last year, DOC announced it would raise sign-on bonuses for new officers to $10,000. The newly signed contracts offer an even larger financial incentive for new recruits and current officers: starting salaries of $52,000 and a 23 percent raise over the next three years, starting with a 12 percent raise in fiscal year 2024.

"Our employees are the backbone of our Department and investing in competitive compensation packages is critically important to recruiting motivated and capable employees, reducing officer and staff vacancies,  and retaining our employees for the long term," a DOC spokesman told Delaware Public Media.

The General Assembly also approved raises DOC administrative staff — among other state employees — as part of the fiscal year 2024 budget approved last week.

Clarke says that his union members are generally satisfied with the raises, though he notes that a forecasted downturn in state revenue growth tempered expectations. He adds that some bargaining subjects – including whether to allow corrections officers to prioritize shifts at the prison closest to their home – are still unresolved.

Paul Kiefer comes to Delaware from Seattle, where he covered policing, prisons and public safety for the local news site PubliCola.