Digging deeper into Wisconsin State Prison staffing

State legislator increased wages fro prison employees this past session. Investigative reporter...
State legislator increased wages fro prison employees this past session. Investigative reporter Elise Romas asks Rep. Michael Schraa about the pay increases and about the staffing cuts five years ago to prison tower guards during third shift.(NBC15)
Published: Apr. 20, 2020 at 6:44 PM CDT
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NBC15 Investigates is digging deeper into the staffing of Wisconsin State Prisons.

Before the coronavirus outbreak, Wisconsin state legislators explain that a strong economy made it difficult to hire and maintain employees at state prisons.

The total number of employee overtime house increased by about 50 percent from fiscal years 2013-2014 to fiscal years 2017-2018,

This past session,

for all corrections officers and staff sergeants, and starting wages.

"We ended up getting it increased from $16.85 an hour and we got that up to $18.50 now," Corrections Committee Chairman Rep. Michael Schraa told NBC15 Investigates.

Schraa added that the Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC) found even more money in its budget for employees at five state prisons, including Columbia Correctional Institution (CCI).

"You actually received a $5 add on bonus and that goes until June of this year," Rep. Schraa said.

Going back to February of 2015, to the Walker Administration,

about 60 tower guard positions at 10 prisons during the third shift, including CCI. The cut saved about $6 million.

Schraa was on the Joint Finance Committee at the time, and urged to keep those positions intact.

"What we did also find out is that DOC would also do perimeter checks,” Rep. Schraa said. “So it's not like they didn't have anybody guarding the hen house, so to speak."

Schraa added that the main entrance towers still have guards during the overnight shift.

NBC15 Investigates reached out to the DOC. A spokesperson did not comment on whether the guard towers at the CCI were staffed Thursday

citing that it’s still an active investigation.