Public employees’ association decries Corrections furloughs

CapitolBeatOK Staff Report

Published: 07-Aug-2010

The Oklahoma Department of Corrections (DOC) is furloughing all of its employees one day a month; however that number could increase if additional funding is not made available when the legislature returns in February. This news was circulated in an OPEA “blog” posting today.

Because of the reduced state budget DOC has implemented a furlough policy that is affecting its employees. Sheri Friend, an employee at the John Lilley Correctional Center in Boley said, “My husband and I both work for DOC and the furloughs are a double impact at our house. If the furloughs continue we may be faced with finding part time jobs to make up the loss of income.”

Friend said, “We are cutting back on extra items and conserving where we can.”

Tonya Jones, a Security employee at Lilley said, “I can’t buy gas to come to work and I only live two miles from my job.”

“The Oklahoma Public Employees Association is calling on legislative leaders to come to an agreement now about a supplemental. This would allow Director Jones to stop the furloughs which are crushing the morale of our public safety employees,” Sterling Zearley, Executive Director of OPEA said.

“We are at a critical time right now, the temperatures are rising, prisons are full, and employees are working short staffed and now to add the furloughs on top of it, we could be in for a very bad situation,” Zearley added.

Zearley asserts DOC staffing levels are around 68 percent. “Add in the furloughs and mandatory overtime and employees are being overwhelmed,” Zearley said. “Legislative leadership needs to take action now as the situation is really out of hand.”

Phillip Bennett, a DOC employee recently wrote OPEA with this information; “Due to recent furloughs within the Department I have not been able to meet my monthly financial obligations. I am currently seeking a part time job to compensate for my decreased salary. I love serving the people of Oklahoma; however, continued cuts in salary and benefits will make it financially impossible to continue my employment with the state.”

Zearley said the DOC’s budget is about $40 million short for this fiscal year.  Tge agency has said that an additional $13.8 million would stop the furloughs at state prisons.