Severe staffing shortages at Philadelphia’s prisons are leading to record spending on overtime as inmates continue to crowd the facilities in unprecedented numbers, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Overtime costs are projected to hit $35 million for the fiscal year that ends June 30. That is up from $22 million just two years ago. It is nearly half of the total overtime costs in the Police Department, which has a workforce three times as large as the prisons’ 2,100 employees.
With too many workers quitting or calling out sick, and too few job applicants, the prison system has placed a heavy reliance on overtime, which is a financial drain on the city and raises security issues for both inmates and correctional officers. Last month, the inmate count reached 9,334, an all-time high. Yet the number of correctional officers – 1,684 – is lower than it has been in three years, when the average daily inmate population was considerably lower, at 8,100. The prison department has the second-highest rate of sick-leave usage in the city, creating even more shifts to fill for a workforce already stretched. At the heart of the shortage is an inability to keep current officers on the job, and to find new ones. Many officers leave for higher-paying jobs. The starting salary for a correctional officer is $32,816 a year, and rises only to $38,991 for a non-ranking position – about the starting salary for a police recruit.