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AustraliaPrison overtime bill hits $5.7m in 10 months, unions blame staff shortages

00:45  06 june  2019
00:45  06 june  2019 Source:   abc.net.au

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Facing ballooning overtime costs amid a stubborn staffing shortage in Wisconsin prisons , lawmakers in control of state government The The overtime figure for July 2018 Tasmania's prison service forks out the equivalent of ,000 per staff member for overtime , a bill unions say is being.

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Prison overtime bill hits $5.7m in 10 months, unions blame staff shortages© Provided by ABC News Risdon prison interior yard with unidentified inmates. The Tasmanian Prison Service has already spent more than $5.7 million on overtime this financial year — just over $16,000 for each member of staff in the state's corrective services.

The overtime figure for July 2018 to April 30 this year was revealed by Attorney-General Elise Archer in budget estimates hearings on Wednesday, under questioning from independent Windermere MLC Ivan Dean.

Ms Archer told the hearing the overtime bill was $5,759,407 so far.

Mr Dean said that was a significant cost, considering Corrective Services employed 354 people.

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Shortages of experienced staff and resources combined with a growing prison population are to blame for the rapid rise in suicides, according to the chief inspector of There were savings last year of £84 m in public sector prison running costs and a further £88 m as a result of closing older prisons .

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"This is the total amount of overtime paid within the service — it's $5.7 million. That is a huge amount of money," Mr Dean said.

The Community and Public Sector Union's Tom Lynch said the overtime figure was not surprising.

"When you have too few staff engaged to deliver services you need to work all the overtime shifts possible, and that's what's happening over there just to keep that prison running," Mr Lynch said.

"We have officers doing overtime shifts on a very regular basis, because if they don't do those shifts there will be too few staff available to even unlock the prison.

"Even when all of that overtime is being done, the prison is still being locked down, almost on a daily basis. The prison is being locked down because there are insufficient staff to fully operate it."

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The prison staffing shortage is causing a spike in overtime costs, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. Corrections officials said more than 70 The Missouri Correctional Officers Association sent a note to union members in September saying the staffing shortage raised serious safety concerns

Mr Lynch said he was concerned it meant prisoners were not being appropriately rehabilitated, because regular lockdowns made it difficult to access educational opportunities and develop skills.

In April the ABC reported that Government documents revealed staff shortages at Risdon Prison had resulted in full or partial lockdowns across parts of the prison network on a daily basis.

The budget estimates hearing was told there had been 48 workers compensation claims made by correctional officers this financial year, and 19 assaults on officers resulting in physical injury.

Of the workers compensation cases, 16 officers are back at work but still receiving treatment, 17 are on modified or alternative duties, and 15 have been fully incapacitated.

Ms Archer said additional correctional officers were being employed and the rostering system had been changed in an attempt to address overtime issues.

"It should be noted that a lockdown does not necessarily mean that prisoners are confined to their cells," she said.

"Typically in a lockdown they will only be confined to their unit, allowing prisoners to leave their cells and interact with each other."

A Government spokeswoman said lockdowns occurred for a variety of reasons, but it was rare for the entire prison to be locked down.

During the hearing, Ms Archer announced that TasTAFE would establish a campus at Risdon Prison from next month, as part of a three-year memorandum of understanding between TasTAFE and the Department of Justice.

She said the campus would help support inmates' re-integration into the community.

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