For the second straight year, overtime costs at the Allegheny County Jail in Pittsburgh are soaring, says the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Officials are looking at the 86 correctional officers on family and medical leave, 19 percent of the 454 officers and far more employees than in any other county department. “It’s a very difficult work environment. I give them all the credit in the world. But we have to reduce overtime,” county Manager Jim Flynn said. “If people who are on the payroll come to work, you can cut the overtime.”
From 2004 to last year, the jail had a 20 percent increase in the number of officers on medical leave. Overtime increased, from $2.1 million to more than $3 million during that time. A surge in the inmate population is contributing to the problem. The number of inmates reached 2,640 June 22, up from 2,392 a year before. Warden Ramon Rustin attributes the change to more arrests in the city. Many guards are being forced to work beyond their set shifts as the jail tries to meet the state’s recommended ratio of one guard for every 15 inmates. Chuck Mandarino, president of the Allegheny County Independent Prison Employees Union, said many guards were on “intermittent” leave. They often work regular shifts, but, they use sick days or vacation time to treat their own medical problems or the illnesses of a family member. A consultant’s report after the jail opened a decade ago suggested that the 16-story structure have at least 470 full-time guards. The jail has been moving away from that number. Four years ago, it had 420; it now has 403.