N.M. correctional officers receive 13% pay increase

Early career CO annual pay to increase from $41,288 to $46,654 in a facility that has a 52% vacancy

By Elise Kaplan
Albuquerque Journal, N.M.  

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — In an effort to address an ever-escalating staffing crisis, Bernalillo County will be giving correctional officers at the Metropolitan Detention Center a 13% raise across the board.

Early career officers will increase their yearly pay from $41,288 to $46,654 while senior officers will increase their pay from $61,256 to $69,222.

Pay raises and signing bonuses are part of effort to improve staffing at the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center.
Pay raises and signing bonuses are part of effort to improve staffing at the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center. (Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center)

Correctional officers who have been there for two to four years will now be making $22.43 an hour — up from $19.85. Officers who have been there for more than five years will make $24.67 — up from $21.83 — sergeants will make $27.49 — up from $24.33 — and lieutenants will make $33.28 — up from $29.45.

Officers who come from other detention facilities will receive a $10,000 hiring bonus and new hires will receive a $5,000 bonus.

The correctional officer vacancy is now at 52%.

In June, jail officials had to call a state of emergency twice — on back-to-back Saturdays — after essential positions were empty during some shifts, meaning officers were forced to continue working overtime. One of those shifts only had 13 officers and two supervisors on the roster, meaning they were eight people short.

The staffing issues impact the people who are behind bars at the jail as well. They are on lockdown in their cells for days at a time without access to showers or phones, leading to heightened frustration and anger.

Last October, deputies say a man was beaten to death by his cell mate.

The lack of staffing led the attorneys representing the plaintiffs in the McClendon settlement agreement and the county to draft an order setting benchmarks for the jail to hit every six months. The order mandates that they increase the staff by 111 over two years.

In response to that order Bernalillo County Manager Julie Morgas Baca, the former chief of the jail and the union representing MDC correctional officers met to come up with a plan. The memorandum of understanding was signed on July 7.

"The increase is well deserved. Increased retention and successful recruitment efforts will result in more boots on the ground and less demand for overtime," said Morgas Baca. "Our employees should have the opportunity to plan and enjoy quality time with their family and friends."

The funding for the raises comes from past and current budgets, the county said, since positions had been funded but not filled in the past.

MDC interim Chief Rosanne Otero Gonzales, who replaced Chief Greg Richardson when he retired at the end of last month, said the MOU also changed the way involuntary mandatory overtime is handled so that the administration has to take into account the number of hours an employee has worked rather than seniority when they are being ordered to continue working.

"Changing this provision is an effort to better distribute the workload between new and senior employees and to improve the work/home life balance of correctional officers," Otero Gonzales said.

Joseph Trujeque, the union president, said he hopes the MOU will help the jail get more new people in the door so they can relieve officers from overtime and the workload they have been under.

"Hopefully this will also get us some more staff so we can get the inmates out of their cells more often," Trujeque said. "The things we've done here should attract more experienced officers for our lateral program. These are really significant hiring bonuses and now that our pay is on par or surpassing most of the other facilities around us, along with a good marketing campaign, they should make a difference."

Pay increases will be reflected in the Aug. 5 paychecks and also include increased pay for certain shifts, including weekday swing and graveyard shifts and all weekend shifts.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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