Arizona Corrections Director Dora Schriro asked legislators yesterday to raise pay for state corrections workers. The Arizona Republic says Schriro said that the site of the nation’s longest prison standoff has had longstanding turnover and recruiting problems. Officers at the Arizona State Prison Complex-Lewis are the least experienced in the prison system, which pays starting officers less than their counterparts in county jails and federal prisons or in fields like airport security or the Border Patrol, Schriro said.
Newly released tapes from the 15-day Lewis standoff showed that negotiators were having frank talks about prison staff morale and recruiting with the hostage-taking inmates. One of the two officers taken hostage, Jason Auch, 21, had been on the job only six months.
Corrections officers at the 5-year-old Lewis prison average 2.5 years of service, three years fewer than those at the Douglas prison. The starting salary of $24,954 is lower than other law-enforcement salaries. Schriro’s $613 million budget proposal includes a pay plan that gives officers a more clearly defined shot at promotion. Schriro would use $21 million in her current budget for “Band-aid” recruiting and pay proposals, plus $6.6 million from Gov. Janet Napolitano’s proposed state-worker pay raise to pay for the changes.
Schriro said a contract for a new private prison in Kingman is nearly ready, and that the first 472 beds should be open in June.
The 40 tapes released yesteray painted a chilling picture of the roller coaster ridden by negotiators who ended the standoff. The negotiations ran the gamut from threats of bloodshed to words of thanks.