Anamosa correctional officers paid more than $700,000 in overtime payments over two years

Published: Apr. 28, 2021 at 10:05 PM CDT
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ANAMOSA, Iowa (KCRG) - Correctional officers at Anamosa State Penitentiary made more than $700,000 in overtime payments over the last two fiscal years.

The data, which the KCRG-TV9 i9 Investigative Team received through a public records request, shows the state paid more than $863,831.25 in overtime payments to staff at the Anamosa prison over the last two years. And the Department of Corrections said this year system-wide overtime payments are increasing because of COVID-19.

In a few cases, correctional officers at the facility made more or almost more money in overtime than base pay in a single pay period.

Although rare, sometimes an employee made more in overtime than their base pay
Although rare, sometimes an employee made more in overtime than their base pay(Ethan Stein)

Three different correctional officers made around $35,000 in overtime over the two-year period. That was around a third of what all three made without overtime.

Danny Homan, who is the president of AFSCME Council 61 and union leader for the correctional officers, said he was not surprised about the $700,000 spent in overtime to workers at Anamosa. He said overtime is created from the department not having enough staff.

“They’re calling for 10 to 15 people to work over[time]. That is either you come in on your day off or you get mandated to work another shift,” he said. “I’ve talked to one officer who worked seven days in a row on double shifts. So he worked 16 hours a day for seven days.”

Homan said the number of overtime hours causes workers to make mistakes.

“Unintentionally, they get sloppy because they’re dog tired,” he said. “In my opinion, you should never work a 16-hour shift.”

Homan also said overtime was also higher than normal because of COVID-19 outbreaks inside prisons. But, the TV9 i9 Investigative team only received overtime payments up until June 2020.

Cord Overton, who is a spokesperson for the Department of Corrections, said COVID-19 has increased the number of overtime payments from the department.

He said the department spent $2.6 Million in overtime during Fiscal Year 2020 but has already spent more than $4 Million in overtime during Fiscal Year 2021. The department plans on using CARES funding to cover the increased cost from following health procedures from the Center’s for Disease Control and Iowa Department of Public Health.

“On multiple occasions, this resulted in a significant number of employees at different institutions being required to stay away from the prison due to their exposure to COVID, being symptomatic, or a positive test result,” Overton said. ”When a facility had a full-scale COVID-19 outbreak, this issue was extremely impactful on staffing availability. When this occurs, those staff that were not exposed, positive or symptomatic were required to work extra shifts in order to keep the prisons operating. This resulted in a massive increase in the use of overtime.”

He said staff working mandated shifts means less time for staff to be at home with their families, less time to be away from the demands of a prison environment, less rest and recuperation. Overton said required overtime also has an impact on morale over time.

Staffing Ratios and Disagreements over the stat

Investigators from the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation said two inmates in Anamosa killed correctional officer Robert McFarland and nurse Lorena Shulte while they were trying to escape. State Democratic lawmakers and union officials have blamed their deaths on low staffing levels and funding.

But, the data also shows staffing ratios in the Anamosa prison are better than federal prisons and facilities in other states. About 168 correctional officers in Anamosa received paychecks for the pay period beginning in June 2020. Using the number of inmates reported two after the attack, the prison has about 5.5 inmates per correctional officer.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons says its inmate to correctional officer ratio is 7.5 to 1. In Alabama, which is where the Department of Justice stepped in, the ratio was 9.9 inmates to 1 correctional officer.

Danny Homan said those ratios are misleading.

“Those 168 are the ones who work at that institution. But, there may be 10 on duty on that particular shift,” he said.”For your formula to work all 168 would have to work 24-hours a day, seven days a week. They don’t.”

Spokesperson Cord Overton said the Department of Corrections has a total of 163 positions it is trying to fill throughout the department. Of those 163 positions, 101 are for security.

“Various factors are creating challenges in finding enough candidates to fill many of the open positions,” he said. “The department is working on new avenues for recruitment given the new challenges with finding qualified candidates for the open positions. We appreciate any stakeholders that can help highlight our openings in a career that, while challenging, is extremely fulfilling to those that want to have a positive impact on public safety in Iowa. Correctional officers, nurses and other employees are changing lives every day.”

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