The highest paid employee at a Pennsylvania state prison in Pittsburgh last year was a corrections officer one rank up from trainee whose pay of $51,000 was supplemented by leave pay, shift differentials, and massive overtime to bring his earnings to $139,571, says the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. It wasn’t an isolated instance. Throughout the prison system, the salary structure, in which increased responsibility is rewarded with more pay, has flipped. Stagnant wages paid to corrections brass and huge overtime payments to some rank-and-file workers have people on both sides wondering: Is this any way to run a penitentiary?
Of the 23 employees of one prison who earned $100,000-plus last year, 21 were corrections officers or sergeants. The best-paid captain was the 50th-highest, at nearly $88,000. “When you have good quality officers who are not even willing to take the test [to become lieutenants] because they don’t want to take a pay cut in a promotion, what happens then is perhaps the people who do get the promotions aren’t the best qualified,” said state Sen. David Argall, who wants to keep prison white shirts ahead of rank-and-file in base pay. He called the pay structure “a public safety problem” that can erode prison management.