Cost Cutting Takes its Toll
Corrections officers take their jobs seriously. They have to. Guard
Susan Vigil explains, "You can get inmates that like to hurt
themselves, inmates with mental health problems, and you also get
inmates that want to challenge you as an officer." She's unsure
whether Ferguson, the CEO-turned-guard, can handle the pressure
on the floor.
Due to staff shortages, guards are working twelve-hour shifts instead
of the regular eight-hour shifts. "You spend half your life
here," one guard says. But the CEO can't hack those kind of
hours -- on his first day, he leaves early. "My feet are awfully
tired," he says. "My legs are hurting 'cause I'm not accustomed
to walking on concrete all the time, and I'm ready for a glass of
chardonnay." But Susan and her coworker Jason are still on
duty for two more hours.
First stop in the prison for new inmates is the reception area.
Here they wait to be processed and categorized and given a permanent
bed in the prison. But this department is understaffed, and the
new arrivals are waiting to be moved into the prison's general population
for longer periods than the state of New Mexico mandates. Inmates
are not allowed to attend classes or work while here, causing tension
and stress for staff.
Ferguson is told that public prisons use more caseworkers than CCA
does to process new inmates. "But we do it better," he
tells reception caseworker Marla. She replies, "We do it slower."
The state of New Mexico recommends new inmates be processed within
two weeks; Ferguson meets an inmate who's waited almost three months
to be housed in the general population. Will he hire more caseworkers?
Veteran guard Adam Ramirez has been with CCA 13 years, but only
received a 65-cents-an-hour raise in the latest pay hikes. In an
effort to retain junior staff, younger guards got higher pay raises.
Adam's visibly disappointed and lets Ferguson know: "When there's
a little more money, there's a little more inspiration." One
younger guard notes how much he has learned from Adam's experience.
Will Ferguson make changes in wage structure to satisfy senior staff?
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