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Historic pay raise leads to 300% increase in new applicants to the Nebraska Department of Corrections

NDCS issues staffing emergency at 2 more facilities
NDCS issues staffing emergency at 2 more facilities(Jared Austin)
Published: Dec. 30, 2021 at 4:55 PM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Hundreds of job applications have flooded into the Nebraska Department of Corrections in the two months since their new union contract earned workers an $8 raise.

Both the president and of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 88 and Scott Frakes, the Director of the Department of Corrections, said after months of short staffing, the tides are finally changing.

“Compensation to do this dangerous, hard work is what’s required and we’re finally starting to see that now,” Michael Chipman, president of the FOP said.

They said 630 people have applied to work for the Nebraska Department of Corrections since Nov. 10, when the historic raises were announced.

“We had 30-40 applicants [in the two weeks] before that, so this has been getting people’s attention,” Chipman said.

The Department of Corrections said in the five weeks prior to the deal being announced, they had 162 total applicants. This means there’s been around a 300% increase.

That agreement jumped the starting pay for corrections corporals from $20 an hour to $28. All staff under the FOP saw $8 raises too, in addition to other benefits like double overtime pay during staff shortages and a $10,000 tuition bonus per year.

These raises were in response to critical staff shortages seen over the last year. In a story 10/11 NOW published in September, Chipman said half of the staff at LCC and the Diagnostic and Evaluation Center had quit and the Nebraska State Penitentiary and Tecumseh State Correctional Center were both down 100 staff each. Because of these shortages, those four facilities were put on modified schedules.

Laura Strimple, Chief of Staff for the Department said it’s still too early to shift away from those modified schedules but they’re evaluating that as they hire more workers.

Right now, the number of applicants outweigh the 450 open positions. Chipman said they’ve hired more than 100 people so far, representing about 20% of those open positions.

“When those staff get in there that’s 20% of staff who don’t have to stay an extra night or work a 16-hour shift,” Chipman said.

Frakes said they’ve had applicants from out of state and are doing virtual interviews to expedite the hiring process. He said the two most recent training classes have been at maximum capacity and they’ve seen former employees re-apply.

“Obviously, we are keeping closest tabs on the number of corporal positions, as they are the entry-level custody positions and are the greatest staffing need for our agency,” said Dir. Frakes. “All of the signs point to the potential to onboard a significant number of staff in the coming weeks and months.”

Chipman said he thinks it will be late February by the time they start seeing those workers in facilities.

“I think within a year we’ll see the full effects everywhere with things getting back to a more normal,” Chipman said.

The raises are also impacting retention. Chipman said in August, at the height of the staff shortage, 40 people quit. In November, three people quit. In December, 11 people have quit. Chipman said he’s being told most of those were retirements.

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