A bi-partisan group of lawmakers gathered in support of West Virginia Corrections officers Friday, as it was Corrections Day at the Capitol. The biggest item on the agenda was raising officer’s pay.
“All the states throughout the country, and guess where we are in pay? Dead last,” said Elaine Harris with the Communications Workers of America which represents corrections officers.
An investigation last year found that Federal Corrections and five neighboring states all paid more than West Virginia, and that is why so many trained officers leave the Mountain State.
With 500 vacancies, officers are put at risk.
“I had an inmate that somehow got access to contraband and ended up overdosing on my unit. So, as I am trying to give medical care to this inmate, who’s overdosing right in front of me, I am also responsible for 47 other inmates,” said James Elam, Former Corrections Officer and (D) Candidate for House of Delegates District 36.
Delegate Bill Hartman talked about having to quell a Moundsville prison riot when he was in the National Guard.
“There’s no value of life for a lot of those people. You know their popularity in the prison, is that they can be meaner than the next guy,” said Del. William Hartman, (D) Randolph
Right now the legislature is considering a bill to raise corrections pay by $2,000 in each of the next three years.
“We have $2,000 annually and it’s going to be a fantastic thing to get us up to par with surrounding states, and getting them a livable wage,” said Del. Andrew Robinson, (D) Kanawha.
On Monday the House will vote on the $6,000 pay raise for corrections officers over the next three years. If it passes there, it moves on to the state Senate.