Study: State Corrections Officers Underpaid, Overworked

Dec 19, 2013

Oklahoma corrections officers have the fourth-lowest average starting pay and the highest offender-to-officer ratio in the United States.
Credit File photo

A study from Oklahoma Corrections Professionals, an association for the state's corrections and pardon and parole employees, says the state's corrections officers are worse off than most of the nation's.

Oklahoma corrections officers' average starting pay of $11.83 an hour is fourth-lowest in the U.S., trailing Louisiana, Georgia and Mississippi. It's also nearly $4 less than the national average.

Officers also face the highest offender-to-officer ratio, with nearly 12 inmates for every officer. The national average is 5.5.

Sean Wallace with OCP conducted a survey by contacting every state's department of corrections. His initial reaction to the results was to think Oklahoma prisons could lose accreditation.

"What I found out, that all they really do is look to see if you have the post covered," Wallace said. "We're barely there. We're only having our posts covered because we're working 60 hours a week, mandatory. This is ridiculous."

The Department of Corrections is among several state agencies to request increased funding from Gov. Mary Fallin's office. Spokesman Alex Weintz said she's received more than $1 billion in new funding requests, but the money isn't there right now.

He said agencies will have to cut costs if they want to pay employees more.

"We're happy as an administration to work with their board and work with their leaders to figure out ways to do that," he said.