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Brownback Announces Immediate Pay Raise For Kansas Prison Workers

brownback_prison.jpg
Jim McLean
/
Kansas News Service
Starting pay for officers at El Dorado prison will receive a larger bump due to staffing shortages there.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback is giving emergency raises to guards in the state prison system, with officers at the maximum-security prison in El Dorado getting the biggest bump.

Flanked by uniformed guards in the lobby of the prison’s administration building Thursday, Gov. Sam Brownback said all officers would be given an immediate raise.

He said starting pay for officers would also be increased across the system, but would be bumped a bit more at El Dorado, where turnover among guards is approaching 50 percent a year. That's forcing remaining officers to work a lot of overtime, including some 16-hour days.

In recent months, they've also had to quell several inmate disturbances.

To improve retention, Brownback ordered a 10 percent raise for uniformed staff at El Dorado, but only 5 percent for officers at the state's other prisons. That troubles some lawmakers, including Salina Republican Rep. J.R. Claeys, who in the last legislative session had pushed for pay raises for state prison workers.

"It's absolutely not ideal," he said after Brownback's announcement. "And when we go back in January the task will be to get everyone to the baseline of 10 percent, and then increase from there for the entire system."

But simply maintaining the pay increases will require lawmakers to come up with millions of additional dollars next year.

The raises are temporary and only good for the current budget year. It will be up to next year’s Legislature to decide whether to extend them beyond that.

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Jim McLean is managing director of KMUW's Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KMUW, Kansas Public Radio and KCUR covering health, education and politics in Kansas. Follow him on Twitter @jmcleanks.