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Paper partially retracts prison worker story

Wednesday, Dec 5, 2012

* AFSCME reacted so strongly to the numbers included in a Belleville News Democrat story published this week that the paper has removed the story from its website and issued a partial retraction

A Belleville News-Democrat article Sunday incorrectly reported the amount of overtime paid to guards and supervisors of the Tamms Correctional Center.

The amount of overtime paid from November 2011 through Oct. 31, 2012, was $425,281, according to payroll data from the Illinois Department of Corrections.

The article Sunday, and an editorial published Tuesday, incorrectly reported the state paid at least $884,000 in overtime to correctional officers, lieutenants, sergeants and shift supervisors.

The state did pay supervisors and guards $884,000 above base salary, but the figure includes overtime and “special pay,” according to IDOC. […]

The first sentence of Sunday’s article also incorrectly stated that there were more guards than inmates at Tamms. The overall security staff at Tamms was 221 and the total number of maximum and minimum security inmates was 227, according to IDOC figures.

The maximum security section had 208 security staff members and 138 inmates, the IDOC figures show.

Even so, as the retraction states, the maximum security section has far more staff than inmates.

* But this was not retracted

In addition, there are 16 food supervisors earning an average of $71,600 a year working at Tamms. That’s the same number of food supervisors as at the Pontiac Correctional Center, which houses around 1,700 maximum- and medium-security inmates. […]

Meal preparation at Tamms consists mostly of food that is not cooked on the premises but comes in cans or packages from a Florida wholesaler, according to surveys by a prisoner advocacy group.

* AFSCME issued this statement before the article was partially retracted…

The Belleville News-Democrat has done a disservice to the public and misled its readers by publishing incorrect information in a recent report and editorial on Tamms Correctional Center. Contrary to the newspaper’s claim that employees were paid $884,000 for overtime worked from November 2011 to November 2012, in truth the figure is less than half that amount—just $425,000, according to information the union obtained from the Illinois Department of Corrections.

It should be noted that the newspaper failed to contact our union before publishing its false information. We have contacted News-Democrat editors and urged them to retract their report and editorial, correct them and issue an apology.

We are in the process of carefully scrutinizing all other purported facts cited in the article. It is clear that the paper’s central claim, that “there are more guards than inmates at Tamms,” is grossly misleading. The prison has approximately 234 inmates in its closed-maximum and minimum-security wings, and about 50 security staff per shift. To insinuate that there are ever more security employees on duty than inmates is false.

With respect to overtime, while some overtime is inevitable in any 24-7 facility, our union has long contended that regular reliance on overtime—especially forced overtime—serves no one, including employees who become exhausted, and should be reduced to the extent possible. It should be noted that existing overtime costs at Tamms are in line with the past—the FY 2011 overtime expenditure there was $340,000—and result from staff shortages. Right now at Tamms the state’s failure to hire needed employees in recent months has resulted in higher-paid correctional officers being temporarily assigned to clerical, food supervisor, supply and library positions that would pay lower wages if filled.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - I don't want to live in Teabagistan - Wednesday, Dec 5, 12 @ 9:04 am:

    What is more surprising? That BND got the story completely wrong or that they partially retracted? Of course when BND’s masters at AFSCME call….

  2. - Lay Person - Wednesday, Dec 5, 12 @ 9:13 am:

    Half a million $’s in overtime payments??? Some are on a gravy train. Surely other faciities could utilize supervisors and additional gaurds. If not required transfer or resign. Another example of spending without need!!!!!!!

  3. - cassandra - Wednesday, Dec 5, 12 @ 9:16 am:

    What hasn’t changed since yesterday is Illinois’ overreliance on incarceration as correctional policy. Institutional care is extremely expensive, as even the corrected numbers show. And less-croweded jails mean better conditions for those who must be institutionalized. This is the 21st century and we are not the third world.
    Modern prisons should meet certain standards and I suspect Illinois’ overcrowded prisons do not. It really is time for reform–not just adding more jails and more state jobs. Sorry, AFSCME.
    Government really can’t be a jobs farm, especially the expensive govt of these times.

    As to the food supervisors, I can’t tell from here on the outside. Are these patronage jobs? Hmm. Is there an industry standard requiring a certain number of them. Maybe the BND will tell us in their next article on the subject.Unless they are thoroughly intimidated, of course.

  4. - Robert the Bruce - Wednesday, Dec 5, 12 @ 9:17 am:

    ==Right now at Tamms the state’s failure to hire needed employees in recent months has resulted in higher-paid correctional officers being temporarily assigned to clerical, food supervisor, supply and library positions that would pay lower wages if filled.==
    Or, the state has a bunch of extra well-paid guards sitting around doing nothing at Tamms, as most prisoners are in their cells for 23 out of 24 hours. But union contracts make it too difficult to lay off guards. So, rather than waste more money buy hiring people to do clerical/food service/library work, the state decided that they might as well make the guards do this work.

  5. - some do-gooder - Wednesday, Dec 5, 12 @ 9:29 am:

    Hmm, AFSCME’s outraged statement doesn’t breathe the phrase “special pay,” much less explain the difference between overtime figures.

    Hey, what’s another missing $459,000? Just another 8 state jobs at a decent middle-class salary. Better to protect “special pay” for a special few, right, AFSCME?

  6. - Plutocrat03 - Wednesday, Dec 5, 12 @ 9:37 am:

    What the heck is ’special pay’?

  7. - Cindy Lou - Wednesday, Dec 5, 12 @ 10:11 am:

    “Special pay” could mean based solely on this article, just about anything. Examples could range anywhere from employee leaving employment thus any refunded contributions and/or parting wages to uh, what? Are ‘we’ really going to assume media has a full complete detailed account? Well, I guess some are.

  8. - thechampaignlife - Wednesday, Dec 5, 12 @ 10:47 am:

    50 guards on duty at any time to 138 inmates is about a 1-to-3 ratio which isn’t outrageously unreasonable. Some positions such as monitoring cameras or towers are likely required whether there are 2 inmates or 2000. That’s not to say savings couldn’t be had but I also wonder how much better the numbers would look if they’d load up the prison with transfers from elsewhere. I suspect the numbers look bad right now because the prison is being intentionally underutilized.

  9. - Formerly Known As... - Wednesday, Dec 5, 12 @ 11:10 am:

    === overall security staff at Tamms was 221 and the total number of maximum and minimum security inmates was 227 ===

    Oh. That makes it so much better. In that case, we’ll just move along. Nothing to see here.

  10. - MrJM - Wednesday, Dec 5, 12 @ 11:24 am:

    – MrJM

  11. - the Patriot - Wednesday, Dec 5, 12 @ 1:06 pm:

    The numbers are off because the prision is being intentionally under utilized to justify closure.

    There are too many admin staff/food staff because Blago added admin positions instead of front line staff so his cronies did not have to pass the guard test. Quinn decided to keep them and AFMCME wants their dues. Both are to blame for too much admin staff.

    I believe special pay also includes overtime and double time pay for working holidays. This is standard when employees are required to work holidays.

    The bottom line is Quinn is completely lying about savings from closure. Since no one loses their job most of the expenses get shifted elsewhere in DOC.

    But the AFSCME is also misrepresenting facts and should share the blame for some of their members having useless patronage jobs.

    This facility is necessary to maintain order in the system, but it also needs to be run better.

    How about putting both Quinn and the AFSME chief in a cell together in Tamms for 30 days and see what happens?

  12. - Ridiculous - Wednesday, Dec 5, 12 @ 1:21 pm:

    Food supervisors are promoted from within.. Mostly CO’s with 10 - 15yrs experience… Get your facts straight! Also, doc can save mone by closing stateville.. Not Tamms. Almost a 100 million dollar budget. With overtime running over 20 million a year.

  13. - Small Town Liberal - Wednesday, Dec 5, 12 @ 1:46 pm:

    - The bottom line is Quinn is completely lying about savings from closure. Since no one loses their job most of the expenses get shifted elsewhere in DOC. -

    That’s silly. By adding staff at other prisons the amount of overtime can be reduced. There are also savings associated with the facilities themselves.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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