Corrections officers from Tennessee state prisons are reporting the same type of manpower shortages that have occurred at a unit called the Lois M. DeBerry Special Needs Facility since Tennessee implemented a new work schedule, the Tennessean reports. The DeBerry prison’s leadership has put out an “all hands on deck” call and characterized the situation as “emergency staffing issues.” The Tennessee Department of Correction converted its prison security force from a traditional 40-hour workweek to a 28-day cycle to save $1.4 million in annual overtime costs.
The change caused officers to have to work 28 days or longer before they could get a paycheck with overtime. The switch made it more difficult for them to be with their families and to schedule part-time-employment. As officers quit, those remaining ended up having to work multiple double shifts, sometimes without overtime if they were allotted comp days within the revised pay period. About 70 officers reported for duty at one prison in January and March before the change. Once the new schedule took effect in April, attendance began to drop. By June 23, only 56 were reporting for duty. Simultaneously, the number of vacancies quadrupled. Officers who reported for work had fewer colleagues to deal with the daily stress of the job. On June 12, 10 incidents occurred, including two assaults on staff members.