Wisconsin taxpayers have paid $2.5 million in wages in two years for nearly 400 prison workers to wait at home while they were investigated for alleged misconduct, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Most of these workers were found to be at fault in some way. They were all paid to do nothing for an average of 54 days. Seventy-two workers were paid at least $10,000 apiece while on leave, and one probation and parole agent was ultimately fired after being paid $79,725 while apparently on leave for nearly two years.
Those paid to stay home ranged from a female worker who reported being groped by an inmate to a psychologist accused of hanging out in his underwear with interns to workers who had criticized the Department of Corrections on social media. “There has to be a better process,” said Sen. Jon Erpenbach, pointing to the way serious and trivial offenses were seemingly grouped together. “It’s pointless to put someone on paid leave for months and months and months when they haven’t done something seriously wrong. … It really gets to the heart of what the problem is with the process.” The state prison system has been shifting its system for disciplining workers over the past five years. In 2011, the state repealed most collective bargaining for unionized corrections officers, upending the traditional discipline and grievance system. New Corrections Secretary Jon Litscher is reviewing the process in light of a new law overhauling the state’s civil service system. Litscher is seeking to prioritize investigations falling under the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act and to speed up the discipline process.