Columbia Star

SCDC cares?

Letter to the Editor

The General Appropriation Act for fiscal year 2022-2023 provides a 3 percent base increase for classified and unclassified employees. The general increase will not be included in the July 1, 2022 paycheck. This basically equates to a “cost of living increase,” which happens every year for all state employees. Sometimes its 1 percent, sometimes 2 percent; this year it happens to be a whopping 3 percent. These are the words from South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC) Director Bryan Stirling, “I am proud to tell you our new salary plan was signed into law by Gov. McMaster today. All SCDC staff will receive a 3 percent raise in mid-July, plus a $1,500 bonus in October. The plan also includes historic salary increases for all security staff categories, some by more than 30 percent. These raises are for both existing and new security staff members. Figures in the security salary plan include the 3 percent increase for those jobs. We have worked very hard to get this approved, because the state depends on you to keep both the public and inmates safe. South Carolina is safer because of the job you do. You deserve a raise, and you’re worth every penny. We still have openings to fill, so please help us spread the word. Again, thank you for sticking with us during hard times. I’m hoping for better times ahead.”

Please note how the “historical” salary increase was only for security staff and some medical and mental health positions (most did not get a raise). In SCDC the personnel that are not correction officers (uniform personnel) are referred to as non-uniform personnel. This would include administrative coordinators (commissary managers, canteen managers, food service, nurses, dental assistants, administrative assistants, classification/case workers, disciplinary hearing officers, disciplinary hearing office recorders, counsel substitute, recreation associates), as well as several other non-uniform job positions not listed. You may or may not be able to access the video from the link provided.

This is the video sent out to all SCDC personnel of which I feel is an insult to all those who did not get a pay raise. In this video Director Stirling states, “He has some exciting news about the pay increases for everybody in SCDC.” He then goes on to talk about the pay increase which does not include the SCDC non-uniform personnel mentioned previously. The video ends with Director Stirling stating, “At SCDC We Are Corrections,” with a screen with the hashtag #WeAreCorrections. This is the ultimate insult as every employee is employed by SCDC and “are corrections,” as stated at the end of the video. However, this does not seem to be the case as almost all non-uniform personnel were excluded from the pay increase in which I say #NonUniformLivesMatter!

This pay increase not only ignores the non-uniform personnel who in many positions are grossly underpaid, but it also allows an 18-year individual with a high school diploma or G.E.D make more than personnel with college degrees and years of service with SCDC. The start out from the beginning making considerably more than them just walking in the door. Again, I say #NonUniformLivesMatter! The pay raise for correction officers was sorely needed and they deserve it but the non-uniform personnel of which probably 60 percent work directly with inmates with no protection like correction officers have such as protective vests, (gas) form of pepper spray, and handcuffs. Some work in areas with no officer assigned to their area and are vastly outnumbered by the inmates working in that area. How does this equate to a great day for everyone in SCDC? How can it be #WeAreCorrections as you ignored a key part of corrections? In all honesty without the nonuniform personnel (the backbone of SCDC) it would not run. There would be no one to supervise the inmates who cook their meals, no one to issue/order clothing and supplies for the inmates and staff, no one to facilitate inmate movement, no one to pick up/deliver inmate mail, no one to fix the facilities when needed, and no one to provide medical care just to name a few things that non-uniform personnel handle. This has already started an influx of non-uniform personnel who are still certified as well as not certified to move over to the corrections side as they feel slighted, and the only way to get a pay raise is to do so. Many of these personnel were correction officers previously and decided for a change in their SCDC career path. Unfortunately, along with other issues another huge obstacle is now thrown out to block that path. Both uniform and non-uniform personnel are short in staffing throughout SCDC. However, with this pay increase, it is making it even more stressful for non-uniform personnel as positions are being vacated adding additional duties to those who stay in their current job position (some who are already doing other job position duties due to the lack of staffing). Some of these non-uniform personnel are still certified and can be pulled to perform some job taskings as a corrections officer on top of already being subject to other additional duties at any given time. Please note that no additional pay is provided for non-uniform personnel being certified, but correction officers can receive extra pay for being on certain teams or working certain high-risk areas.

Correction officers all the way up to the rank of lieutenant can also work and be paid overtime as most non-uniform positions do not even have that option. On many occasions non-uniform personnel must work beyond their assigned hours and are rarely if ever compensated with time or any other form of compensation. In most cases either you will just have to accept it or try to get your time back by leaving early on another workday within that same work week. So not only did non-uniform personnel not get a pay increase, but they do not even have the option to earn extra pay by doing overtime or performing addition duties. Again, I say #NonUniformLivesMatter!

Director Stirling, Governor McMaster, and the legislation need to really investigate this issue and reconsider pay raises for the dedicated non-uniform personnel that work in SCDC and really make them feel that they are a part of that “WeAreCorrections” motto. If not, SCDC may have a bigger problem than the understaffing issues they are currently facing. They may not even be able to run the institutions. Waiting until the next fiscal year to address pay increases for non-uniform personnel is not the answer. We are facing a possible recession, and there may not be anything available to give a pay raise. With that again, I say #NonUniformLivesMatter!

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