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Old 08-05-2005, 10:09 AM
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arriana arriana is offline
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Post ARTICLE: Tucson's Wilmot State Prison

Peter Busch Reports
Prison requires corrections officers to work 16-hour shifts
Aug 5, 2005, 10:50 AM
The Arizona Department of Corrections says Tucson's Wilmot State Prison has the worst staffing conditions in the state, and the problems are only getting worse.

Corrections officers are being asked to work longer and longer shifts to fill the void.

Officers are currently mandated to work 12-hour shifts once or twice a week. Starting next week, those mandated overtime shifts will increase to 16 hours.

Officer John Stone, a 12-year veteran, says the mandated hours are causing an employee exodus.

"This is the worst I've ever seen it, and people are quiting left and right," Stone says.

Stone has seen the longer hours conflict with some peoples' personal lives.

"This one lady I knew had to quit because she was working too much out here, (because of the mandated shifts) and she wasn't taking care of her kids, and her husband tried to take them away from her," he says.

Warden Greg Fizer says the Arizona DOC has no choice but to mandate the overtime shifts.

"Seven days a week, 24 hours a day, you have to be able to staff essential positions," Fizer says.

The Wilmot prison is allocated 961 officers, but currently 146 of those positions are vacant. The Winslow and Buckeye prisons have large vacancy rates as well.

Fizer says one of the reasons many Arizona state prisons are understaffed is that the starting salary is just over $26,000.

"California pays much more than we do. Colorado pays significantly more than we do," says Fizer.

Even the federal prison less than a mile down Wilmot road pays officers $10,000 more to start.

In response to the staffing shortage, The Arizona DOC has approved 118 new positions for the Wilmot State Prison, and the prison is aggressively recruiting more officers.

But in the meantime, can the officers who are filling the void, stay alert for an entire 16-hour shift?

Corrections Officer Grace Small says it won't be a problem for her.

"I work a level-one yard, so the 12 hours or 16 hours for me, may not be as bad as they are for somebody else," Small says.

The Arizona DOC says their staffing woes were recently exacerbated by the State Legislature as well. When they cut nearly 600 state jobs, it made it harder for the prisons to cope with the high employee turnover.

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