A salary increase, that more personnel are recruited and until working conditions are improved, are just some of the claims of the correctional officers who work for the Department of Correction and Rehabilitation (DCR), who mobilized this morning to the north side from the Capitol, in Old San Juan.
This weekend, the House of Representatives approved a budget resolution which includes a $ 15 million line for the correctional officer salary increase. However, the Senate needs to pass a review on the budget proposal, so correctional officials hope that the upper house will have the same position regarding the line included for the salary increase.
The president of the United Correctional Alliance, Jessica Martínez, said that currently the base salary of correctional officers is $ 1,600 per month, but the government is being asked that the base salary be equal to that of an agent of the Puerto Rico Police Bureau (NPPR), which is over $ 2,300 per month.
“The salary increase has been promised year after year. Since approximately 2008, correctional officers have been waiting for a salary increase, a good remuneration, which is consistent with work needs. Additionally, we are demanding a work environment away from what is harassment, discrimination, political persecution and favoritism “he said at a press conference today on the north side of the Capitol.
He added that correctional officers year after year expect the government to recognize the essential and indispensable work they perform within penal institutions. “We always run into promises and promises. Governor (Pedro) Pierluisi promised us in his campaign that he would equal our salary to that of state agents. For that, he requested $ 15 million. We saw that the Legislative Branch was not going to approve those $ 15 million, but this Saturday the House approved them and now we are waiting for the Senate to have the same position, “said the correctional officer.
Specifically, he explained that correctional officers ask that it be an increase and not a salary adjustment because “the salary adjustment is not going to give salary justice to all colleagues equally.” He claimed that correctional officers had a salary adjustment when former Senator Zoé Laboy was secretary of the DCR.
At the time, he said, many correctional officers received a $ 2 salary increase and another $ 3, so he understands it was not equitable. “We want that $ 15 million to be for an equitable salary increase for the entire body of correctional officers,” he said.
According to the president of the association, because in the United States they are offered better economic remuneration, many of the correctional officers in Puerto Rico end up resigning from the local correctional system and moving.
“The reality is that 500 correctional officers are recruited and in less than a year half of them resign. As long as the profession of the officers is not well paid, we will always have that (reality), that they enter and leave because they use the academy as a step to go to be correctional officers in the United States, to go to the corps of the Police ”, specified the president of the organization.
It is urgent to hire more correctional officers
In the midst of this panorama, he explained that more correctional officers are needed to meet current needs. Currently, counting the rank system, there are about 4,000 correctional officers, he mentioned. However, with the rank system removed, the figure drops to about 3,900.
“At a minimum, we need between 500 to 700 additional officers to be able to remedy the need for the ‘rosters’ and for the comrades to be able to withdraw,” he added.