As reported this week in NJ.Com, County Correctional facilities across New Jersey spent approximately $185.7 million on overtime for correction officers, who clocked in approximately 3.9 million hours at the time and a half rate between 2010 and 2012, according to a report by the New Jersey State Comptroller.

Out of the 21 counties ranked by the Office of the State Comptroller in a report released Thursday — Salem, Cumberland and Mercer counties were ranked as the worst offenders in overtime expenditures. According to the report, the three facilities spent twice the state average of their total expenditures on overtime between 2010 and 2012.

In addition to having a problem with overtimes, Salem is also in need of a staffing analysis, the comptroller’s report states, which has not been performed since 2002.

According to the comptroller’s report, Cape May County Correctional Center (CMCC) is ranked as having the least amount of overtime for its officers.

Whenever Don Barbati and I negotiate a collective bargaining agreement, overtime is always a “hot button” item.  Despite what many governmental agencies may want the taxpayers to believe, County Correctional Officers are routinely burdened with being assigned “too much” overtime.  While officers may sometime enjoy or want to take advantage of additional compensation that is derived from overtime; the amount of “mandatory overtime” that is assigned and worked in County Correctional Facilities detracts from the Officers’ quality of life and contributes to job “burnout” which can lead to dangerous working conditions and thus injury.  In regard to the last three County Correctional contracts that I negotiated this past year, the Collective Negotiations Units all submitted contract proposals that we thought would reduce the amount of overtime that officers received.  These proposals were submitted due to the burdens excessive overtime placed on the officers which lead to the destruction of their quality of life.  However, as perplexing as it may sound, management often opposed these proposals for a multitude of reasons.

The correctional facilities that are operated by the State of New Jersey have overtime costs under control.  Clearly, this leads to a better quality of life for these officers.  Proper planning and staffing by competent County administrations will drasticly reduced the amount of overtime and the costs associated with the same.  This in turn will lead to Officers’ enjoying a better quality of life which leads to more productive employees in the workplace.  This is a proven empirical fact, and not just speculation and conjecture offered by the author.  Therefore if the administrations can solve this overtime issue, not only will the county taxpayers benefit, but more importantly, those public safety officers that work inside the institutional walls will also enjoy a higher quality of life.