Audit report highlights the millions Delaware spends on prison OT

James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna, Delaware (WHYY, file)

James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna, Delaware (WHYY, file)

The Delaware Department of Correction spends more than $800,000 every pay period on overtime, according to analysis from state Auditor Tom Wagner.

“That’s a substantial number,” Wagner, R-Delaware, said. “That’s a number that shifted around in terms of starting salaries versus having to pay overtime, that’s a big number to play with.”

The high amount of overtime can be attributed to staffing shortages at Delaware’s prisons. The problem of staffing shortages in Delaware prisons has been much discussed following February’s prison riot and hostage situation at Vaughn Correctional Institution in Smyra that resulted in the death of correctional officer Lt. Steven Floyd. That incident is now the subject of multiple investigations.

Wagner’s office was already in the midst of an overview of state employee overtime when the riot took place. His office quickly shifted its attention to overtime at the prison to provide details on how much the state is paying in OT to cover staff shortages at prisons.

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“We look at overtime every couple of years, so we’re certainly very familiar with the situation at the Department of Correction,” Wagner said.

According to a report issued Monday, the Department of Correction spends the most on overtime out of all state government. In Fiscal Year 2016, DOC employees earned $22 million in overtime. That’s equal to 38 percent of the state’s entire overtime payments. All other departments combined paid out $35 million. More than 75 percent of DOC employees earned overtime pay.

That overtime pay goes a long way to make up for low pay rates for DOC employees. According to the audit, only 18 workers who earned overtime were making more than $60,000 without overtime pay. When overtime pay is added in, 500 employees earned more than $60,000, with 100 earning more than $80,000.

The department’s top five overtime earners made a total of $357,092 in FY 2016. The top OT earner made $76,076 in overtime in FY16 on top of his base salary of $46,879.

Unlike other reports produced by Wagner’s office that offer recommendations for improving problems that have been discovered, this report is designed to inform a task force looking into Delaware’s prison system in response to the February riot. “We approached it with data so that the governor’s task force could use that data to help them make a better decision on how to go forward,” Wagner said.

Governor John Carney announced the independent review less than two weeks after the February incident. The review, which will begin after a Delaware State Police criminal investigation is complete, will focus on the security of the prison. It will also explore how and why the incident happened.

You can read Wagner’s report in full below: 

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