Principal Fiscal Analyst
Managing Fiscal Analyst
Staffing at Correctional Facilities
Retaining existing staff and trying to hire new staff is a national challenge at correctional facilities, including the Kansas Department of Corrections (KDOC).
In fall 2021, the Secretary of Corrections (Secretary) testified before the Joint Committee on Corrections and Juvenile Justice Oversight regarding critical staffing shortages throughout the Correctional System. The shortage included 405 vacancies among correctional officers at adult facilities, a vacancy rate of 23.0 percent at the juvenile facility, and increased overtime of 66.0 percent above FY 2021. The Committee recommended the Secretary request COVID-19 federal relief funds from the SPARK Taskforce for new-hire referral and retention bonuses. Further, the Committee recommended the agency submit a plan to the 2022 Legislature to address wages, nightly differentials, and premium pay.
The SPARK Taskforce recommended a total of $30.3 million from the federal American Rescue Plan Act Fund to support a 24/7 pay initiative, which was subsequently approved by the State Finance Council. The initiative was to support correctional facilities ($18.3 million) as well as state hospitals and veterans’ homes. It provided temporary base pay increases for hourly and salaried staff, pay differentials for hourly personnel, and one-time premium pay allocations of up to $3,500 for salaried staff.
For the Correctional System, the initiative provides all current correctional officers with more than three months of experience pay increases ranging from 2.5 to 11.0 percent. New correctional officers start at the rate of $18.26 per hour and receive 2.5 percent increases at 3 and 9 months after hire and another 5.0 percent increase at 12 months after hire, for a total increase of 10.0 percent within one year of employment. New counselors and parole officers receive a starting pay increase from $18.26 to $22.16 per hour.
The initiative provides the following differentials, which compound for eligible positions:
- Differential 1: $1.50 per hour for all employees assigned to a correctional facility;
- Differential 2: $2.00 per hour for all KDOC uniformed security staff, counselors, and unit team staff at all correctional facilities;
- Differential 3: $4.50 per hour for medical providers. This differential would apply to one KDOC employee position, as the majority of medical provider positions in KDOC are contracted; and
- Differential 4: $2.50 for employees assigned to facilities with a 25.0 percent vacancy rate.
The pay plan was continued into FY 2023 with an additional $33.9 million from the State General Fund approved by the Legislature.
Impact of the Pay Plan
Table 1 shows the FY 2022 Uniformed Adult Corrections Officer vacancies from July 5, 2021, through June 27, 2022. The blue bars represent the total vacancies, and the red dotted line shows the projected increase that would have happened if the pay plan had not been implemented in January of 2022.
Tables 2 and 3 compare total vacancies from before the pay plan was implemented on January 18, 2022, and August 15, 2022 after the pay plan was in effect for approximately six months. After six months of the pay plan being in effect, the vacancies are down 72 positions or 13.0 percent.
Table 2: Vacancies as of January 18 , 2021
Table 3: Vacancies as of August 15, 2022
KDOC has taken various steps to increase recruiting and improve the hiring process. The application process has been streamlined, and the agency can send conditional job offers within days of application. The employment brochures and web page have been updated. The agency has also increased employee appreciation activities. Additionally, in FY 2021 and FY 2022, there was an increase in expenditures for advertising and recruiting.
The agency reports that the next steps in the effort to increase retention and recruitment include increasing awareness of the issues with stakeholders, identifying additional resources and tactics for retention and recruitment, and evaluating options for budget requests, including market rate adjustments to compensation.