TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNW) – The Kansas Department of Corrections has officially declared an emergency at the El Dorado Correctional Facility, citing staff shortages and public safety as key concerns.
The measure follows a grievance filed by the Kansas Organization of State Employees, or KOSE, after correctional officers at EDCF reported being required to work 16-hour shifts that were not approved in their bargaining agreement.
The emergency declaration allows KDOC to require 16-hour days for its correctional officers.
“In order to provide the KDOC maximum flexibility with staffing resources under the current KOSE Memorandum of Agreement and in response to a KOSE grievance, a temporary staffing emergency has been declared at EDCF,” said KDOC Sec. Joe Norwood in a statement to KSN.
Robert Choromanski, the Executive Director for KOSE, said correctional officers have been required to work three 12-hour days, followed by a 16-hour day before having three days off. He says some workers have to work 18-hour days, but they are required to have at least 6 consecutive hours of rest before reporting back for duty.
“Many of them told me that even with the 16 hours shifts they are bone-dead tired working those long hours, they’re falling asleep on their job, standing and watching over the inmates and trying to do their jobs as correctional offices, it’s a very big serious public safety issue,” said Choromanski.
A statement from the KDOC, signed by Norwood stated: “Citing staff shortages and public safety as an officially declared emergency, KDOC will continue to utilize mandatory overtime only when necessary and will attempt to schedule overtime hours only on the last day of the four scheduled 12-hour work days in order to provide the employee with three days off to rest before returning to work.”
“Staffing resources continue to improve with increased recruiting efforts and a reduction in the inmate population. The need to require staff to work beyond their scheduled 12 hour shift has reduced substantially,” said Norwood. “We continue to monitor the staffing resources and recruitment efforts are ongoing.”
The document from KDOC says the recent utilization of 12-hour shifts will be reviewed 90 days from its implementation.