WHITESTOWN — The union for correctional officers at the Oneida County Jail issued a statement on Monday decrying the “staffing crisis” and the “excessive overtime” at the lockup.
According to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 1249, Council 82, there are currently 56 vacancies at the county jail, a facility that is supposed to have a staffing level of 200 officers.
“The remaining staff are overworked and stretched too thin,” the union said in their statement.
“Currently, employees are being mandated to work excessive overtime and are facing serious staff shortages. Mandated overtime is simply not sustainable over an extended period of time. If Oneida County fails to act to remedy this situation, public safety will be jeopardized, as well as the safety and security of the staff and inmates at the county jail.”
The union recommended Oneida County use money from the federal American Rescue Plan to support new and current correctional officers. Union officials said Oneida County was awarded more than $44 million from the ARP.
The union offered a three-step approach: recruit new officers, with a recent contract negotiation raising the salary to $43,600 for new officers; retain current employees who worked during the pandemic by rewarding them with money from the ARP; and re-employ former staff who left in the past few years.
In response to the union’s claims, Sheriff Robert M. Maciol issued his own statement.
“Jail staffing has historically always been a struggle for sheriffs, although the last two years certainly has been the most challenging with us having as many as 60 full time vacancies just a few weeks ago,” Maciol stated.
“I am happy that the hard work of our Community Affairs Unit and our Office Manager hosting several job fairs and attending dozens of community events with recruiting efforts has resulted so far in the hiring of nearly a dozen new employees with more than thirty potential candidates currently having background investigations done along with having their polygraphs and psychological exams being scheduled.”
Maciol went on to say, “I constantly praise and applaud the dedication and commitment of the corrections officers who are working these long hours every chance I get and my administration is always open to hear the concerns of officers. As Sheriff, I have toured the jail many times, I regularly speak with corrections officers on a wide array of topics, and most recently Undersheriff (Joseph) Lisi has met with nearly every correction officer to hear any concerns with operations and conditions here at the jail — of which many have already been addressed.”
Maciol stated, “My door is always open to any employee to meet with me and countless employees over my 11 years so far as Sheriff have taken the opportunity to do so. I also lobby continuously for better pay and benefits for the members of the Sheriff’s Office — both of which are out of my control.”