With a 30 percent employee vacancy rate facing Oklahoma’s correctional facilities, Sens. Kenneth Corn and Richard Lerblance plan to file legislation that will allow the state to offer retention bonuses to longtime employees of the Department of Corrections.
Corn said that while providing additional incentives to improve recruitment is necessary, the state must ensure that longtime employees are adequately compensated for their years of service.
“With our high incarceration rates, it’s critical that we ensure that each facility is adequately staffed,” said Corn, D-Poteau. “Employees that have made a commitment to make this state a safer place should be rewarded for their contributions. We simply cannot expect to have adequately staffed facilities if we don’t provide employees with a living wage and the incentive to take these positions.”
Under current Office of Personnel Management rules, the Department of Corrections is able to provide new employees with $1,200 bonuses, to be given in six month intervals for the first two years of their employment. While the Department wishes to provide bonuses to all employees, existing policy prevented bonuses from being given to employees with more than two years of service. Corn and Lerblance said their legislation would alter the policy and allow the Department to offer retention bonuses to employees who have worked for the agency for two years or more.
Lerblance said the agency would have had the funding to offer bonuses to all employees, if not for the agency rule.
“This measure will lift the restriction to ensure that all corrections employees will be eligible for retention bonuses,” said Lerblance, D-Hartshorne. “These are often high-stress jobs in dangerous locations. Corrections employees make sacrifices to help ensure safety in our communities, and it’s time for the state to hold up our end of the bargain and make sure they’re adequately compensated for their hard work.”