Montana State Prison is adjusting working hours in an effort to address a large number of vacancies, but the chairman of the union of correctional officers said Monday that the review will only bring out more employees.
About 30% of jobs at Deer Lodge Prison are unfilled.
In an internal note shared Monday with the Montana State News Bureau, Corrections Department Director Brian Gootkin told prison inmates that their shifts will be changed from eight hours a day to 12 hours in mid-July. .
“Due to vacancies, light work, extended permits and a depleted workforce in Montana, MSP has dropped 79 jobs,” DOC department heads said in a note Monday. “For the well-being of our employees, we want to eliminate leftovers, reduce mandatory overtime and preserve existing vacations.”
Staff have fallen into a fragile balance at Montana State Prison, a 1,600-bed facility, as recruitment and retention issues have alarmed even lawmakers who are in the middle of legislative sessions. The Department of Corrections has closed a prison unit, approved an increase of $ 2 per hour, and formed a committee specifically to address these staffing issues, while the prison warden is working to keep mandatory places covered by issue. of security.
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Director Jim Salmonsen told state lawmakers at an interim committee meeting in January that the prison suffered a 20% vacancy rate in the prison, although union officials have said the figure is likely to be higher. Monday’s note is the first notice issued by the DOC that the vacancy rate has risen to 30%, approaching one-third of prison positions.
In recent months, the prison has filled empty shifts with volunteer employees to do overtime or a list of mandatory overtime. If all shifts are not occupied by volunteers and people on the mandatory overtime list, supervisory staff command staff remain in place until a replacement is found, who is known as mandatory residency.
Aaron Meaders, president of the Montana Local 4700 State Prison Employees Federation, said Monday that this change essentially makes all shifts mandatory. In fact, the DOC note said employees will receive four extra hours for each 12-hour shift.
“It will only make things worse,” Meaders said in a telephone interview. “We can barely stand it as it is.”
Meaders said union members had repeatedly voted against the 12-hour shifts. He said Monday it is too early to say how or if the union will take action in response to shift changes.
Carolynn Bright, a spokeswoman for the corrections department, did not return an email asking for the department’s response to Meaders’ statement. The note itself constitutes the 14-day notice of a change in schedule as required by the Local 4700 collective agreement, the department’s management wrote in the document.
Monday’s note includes some additional measures, such as reducing the visits of MSP prisoners to two days a week by four, which will take effect on July 2.
“This will allow us to place the correctional agents normally assigned to the visit within the premises,” the note said.
In addition, the department will remove staff from parole and parole to help cover inmates ’hospital stays and transportation between facilities when needed. The list of mandatory overtime hours is also expanded to include other departments, which include admissions, prison ranch, firefighters, treatment technicians and mental health technicians, according to the note.