Raises for correctional officers, troopers in line
BY World's Editorials Writers
Monday, February 25, 2013
2/25/13 at 8:38 AM
Over the past decade Oklahoma's prison population has grown by 11 percent but its pool of correctional officers has decreased by 14 percent; 600 prison employees are watching more than 2,000 more inmates.
That equation doesn't bode well for public safety or the safety of the officers and inmates. The Department of Corrections has warned that its staff is spread too thin and that it has difficulty attracting and keeping workers. Potential recruits often find it safer and more lucrative to work at higher paying jobs in the oil industry.
Two bills that include a $20 million proposal for pay raises to prison workers and Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers cleared their first legislative hurdle last week.
"If we don't address these two specific areas of public safety, we're literally putting these state employees in life and death situations," says Rep. Jeff Hickman, R-Woodward, who sponsored the legislation.
Both measures now head to the full House Appropriations Committee for consideration and Hickman believes the measures will clear the House. The bill covering troopers would cost about $7.3 million annually. The hike in prison staff pay would amount to $12.2 million annually.
The OHP competes with municipal police departments, 15 of which pay their officers more than state troopers make. The oil and natural gas industry routinely lures away troopers to work security and oversee safety programs.
If lawmakers wish to attract and keep those people willing to put their lives on the line for public safety they need to pay them a competitive salary. State revenues are such that the pay hike is affordable. Hopefully, the full House and Senate will agree.
Original Print Headline: Hikes in line