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Dixon prison second-highest in state for OT pay

$5 million paid out in overtime last year

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015 6:41 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, Feb. 20, 2015 11:05 a.m. CDT

DIXON – Dixon Correctional Center paid employees $5 million in overtime in the past fiscal year, the second most in the state prison system.

Only Statesville in Joliet paid employees more in overtime: $11.7 million.

The numbers come from a document the state sent to the Better Government Association through a Freedom of Information Act request.

A correctional lieutenant who received the most extra income more than doubled his $78,996 salary with $80,113 in overtime wages.

The top 10 overtime earners at the Dixon facility made more than $46,000 in extra wages; the top three made more than $68,000 extra.

The John Howard Association, a group devoted to promoting prison reform, is concerned about what those long hours mean for the mental health of the workers, and the safety of Illinois' prisons.

Jennifer Vollen-Katz, the association's interim director, said long days can be dangerous, especially for employees who monitor the safety and security of inmates and staff.

"That's a safety risk," she said.

Most of those overtime hours are not mandated, said Tom Shaer, spokesman for the Illinois Department of Corrections.

"The vast, vast majority of overtime is voluntary," he said. "If you're tired, don't take the overtime, don't take the extra money."

Shaer said that in the past year, IDOC cut overtime by 173,000 hours – a 12 percent reduction.

The biggest reasons for overtime hours at the Dixon prison are staff vacancies and "call-ins," he said.

"During the recent snowfall, some Dixon employees who live 45 minutes away did make it into work, while others who live in Dixon did not," Shaer said.

Thanks to new procedures, overtime hours at Dixon and Statesville have been decreasing.

Statesville, Shaer said, spent $1.7 million fewer for overtime last year, thanks to new procedures. Figure were not available for Dixon.

"We found that a lot of time, the majors [at Statesville] were calling in people to work an 8-hour shift when they only needed them for 4," he said.

At Statesville, that practice was eliminated, and since November, more than 500 people have been disciplined for improper overtime procedures, Shaer said.

"Why do we need so much overtime?" he said. "We had an unusually high number of retirements last year. We hired 700 new officers during a 1-year period, but we had a net gain of only two officers because we had a lot of attrition."

Unless more staff is hired, there's not much than can be done to reduce overtime, said Vollen-Katz of the John Howard Association.

"... But one has to be careful as you staff up and reduce your inmate population,” she said. “I can see where that could become a difficult calculation, but it's a calculation the state of Illinois needs to make."

Reforming the prison system is something Gov. Bruce Rauner mentioned during his budget address Wednesday. His budget would add 473 IDOC staff positions.

"Our prisons are overcrowded," he said. "Our corrections officers are overworked. By reforming our criminal justice system, we can make our prisons safer, rehabilitate ex-offenders so they become productive members of society, and save many tens of millions of dollars."

Vollen-Katz echoed that sentiment.

"We can do better," she said. "We can use that money better. We can put it into corrections. We can do more."

By the Numbers

Click here see the top 10 highest overtime payouts at Dixon Correctional Center.

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