Could Latest Pay Raises For Nebraska Corrections Staff Compete With Counties’ Pay?


Overcrowded, understaffed and arguably underpaid: Corrections workers in Nebraska are making more money at the county level, and that means more competition for the state.

The Nebraska Department of Corrections has tried to offset a staffing emergency within the prison system. The department offered sign-on bonuses and just agreed on a new compensation plan with the union.

Still, wages for state employees do not compare to other offers at the county level.

Overcrowding and under-staffing at Nebraska’s prisons have led to new compensation plans for state corrections staff.

“There’s a high turnover rate not only because of the working conditions, it’s hard work, right, but you have to have the right pay,” said Mike Chipman, president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 88.

FOP Lodge 88 is the union that represents Nebraska prisons, mental health facilities and youth centers at the state level.

Chipman told KETV NewsWatch 7 corrections officers have been making $17 an hour as starting pay even with a recent raise in 2019.

“We’re not losing people to other states,” Chipman explained. “We’re losing them to these county jobs, and we’re losing our top-tiered people.”

If FOP Lodge 88 members vote to pass the latest agreement announced in December, it would bump the starting pay from $17 to $20 an hour.

That would make the new wage comparable to Lancaster County, but other counties, such as Douglas and Sarpy, are starting at more than a dollar higher an hour and several dollars higher years later.

“Every time that Sarpy County has had an application process go out, they’ve received dozens, if not hundreds of applicants, most of them with prior corrections experience,” said Matt Barrall, vice president of Nebraska Fraternal Order of Police.

Barrall is also the former president of FOP Lodge 8, the union that represents Sarpy County corrections staff.

Barrall and Chipman said they’re glad the state is now being more cooperative, but there’s still a crisis.

They’re hopeful the higher pay for state staff will decrease mandatory overtime and cut the need to bus staff from Omaha to Tecumseh and Lincoln facilities.

“If you had the proper staffing, the overcrowding would be more manageable, and it would be a lot safer,” said Chipman.

Corrections Director Scott Frakes’ office told KETV NewsWatch 7 he wasn’t available for an interview.

In last week’s announcement of the agreement, Frakes did say he is “pleased to see turnover among staff continue on a downward trend.”


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