Secretary/Treasurer Jeff Padellaro’s Letter to the Editor

Union Leader – August 3, 2017 Edition – Letter to the Editor

NH’s prison problem

To the Editor: Gov. Chris Sununu delivered the 2017 budget address on Feb. 9, 2017.

As part of this address, the governor stated, “We are building a new women’s prison … a desperately needed asset and we’re going to get it open. We are going to be aggressive and fully fund our corrections system to end the pattern of forced overtime and personnel shortfalls.”

This promise was a breath of fresh air to the correctional officers who faithfully go to work knowing more than half the time they will be forced to work overtime and more than an eight-hour shift.

The men’s State Prison in Concord requires 371 officers to operate normally, according to a state audit published in 2012. Today, it operates with only 187 officers. The state is unable to recruit new hires or retain officers, who choose to leave for more lucrative opportunities. Compounding the problem, our new women’s prison remains shuttered because nothing has been done to address the staffing crisis that exists.

The problem is simple, but New Hampshire leaders haven’t fixed it. Our state’s compensation for correctional officers is not even close to being competitive with other like professions in the same labor market.

This crisis may have preceded Gov. Sununu, but he is the CEO of the state. He’s aware of the staffing shortage in our prisons and aware of what’s needed to address it. Now it’s time he worked with the stakeholders to resolve this dangerous situation.

JEFF PADELLARO

Secretary Treasurer Teamsters Local Union No. 633

 

 

Text of Original Letter

To the Editor:

Governor Sununu delivered the 2017 Budget Address on February 9, 2017.  As part of this address, the governor stated, “We are building a new women’s prison – as we speak – a desperately needed asset and we’re going to get it open. We are going to be aggressive and fully fund our corrections system to end the pattern of forced overtime and personnel shortfalls.” This promise to aggressively address the chronic staffing shortages was a breath of fresh air to the men and women who faithfully show-up to work knowing that over 50% of the time they will not be going home after their 8- hour shift. The critical staffing shortages routinely result in up to 50% of the posts being staffed by correctional officers who are forced to work overtime.

The Men’s State Prison in Concord requires 371 officers to operate normally, according to a state audit published in 2012, but is now operating with only 187 officers. This has occurred because of the failure of the state to recruit new hires or retain officers who choose to leave for more lucrative careers with reasonable hours.

Adding to the staffing shortage crisis is the new Women’s Prison to which Governor Sununu referred as “a desperately needed asset.”  This necessary facility will remain shuttered because nothing has been done to address the staffing crisis that currently exists.

The state has not addressed the systemic issues underlying this crisis which include a compensation package which is not competitive with other like professions in the same labor market. The governor is a business man and is aware of the solution. In fact, in Governor Sununu’s Budget Address, when addressing a shortage of healthcare workers, he stated:

 “We need to appreciate the realities of our economy, something I say a lot: markets matter. We have a serious workforce issue in virtually every area of health care. This is not a secret, we know the realities, we’ve seen the numbers.

When you don’t pay anyone any more money, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to any of us who believe in capitalism that you’re going to have serious shortages, and that’s exactly what we have today.”

The same argument is true for the correctional officer staffing crisis. This crisis may have preceded Governor Sununu, but he is the CEO of the state, he is aware of the staffing shortage, he is aware of the action needed by the state to address same, and it is time that the governor work with the stakeholders to resolve this dangerous situation in our prisons.

 

 

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