Jail overcrowding taking toll on detention officers


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Reported by: Ian Silver
Updated: 5/07/2013 8:34 am Published: 5/07/2013 8:21 am


The continued overcrowding at the David L. Moss Detention Center in Tulsa County is taking its toll on detention officers.

Detention officers are often having to work overtime to keep up with the demands of an overcrowded jail.

Each pod inside the jail is supposed to have a maximum of 96 inmates, but as of Monday most housed more than 100.

"I'm always on guard," detention officer Sally Matthews said. "You just always have to be on your toes."

Matthews has worked as a DO for close to a year. She says she loves her job, and appears to be well-liked by inmates, even though she is responsible for controlling so many people at once.

"It makes the noise level louder, which can make your stress level go up," she said. "But that's when you make the pod run at your pace, not the inmates' pace."

But as the number of inmates grows, the number of people on her team is constantly changing.

"There is a very high turnover rate for the detention officers," Matthews said.

The jail struggles to maintain staffing levels of one DO for every 36 inmates at all times.

"Not very many can mentally take the job," Matthews said. "It's not physically hard. It can be stressful."

At an average starting salary of about $24,000 a year, compensation presents a challenge.

"We're not the highest-paying industry in and around Tulsa," Maj. Shannon Clark of the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office said. "So, we have to compete with that as well."

Plus, the hours are long.

"For 12 hours a day they're locked in a unit with sometimes more than 100 people," Clark said.

Filling gaps when officers are out caused overtime pay to skyrocket, so jail administrators announced detention officers will go back to eight hour shifts starting in June.

Even though the inmate population is so high, Matthews takes it all in stride, determined not to let it affect how she does her job.

"I come here, make sure they stay safe, stay firm, fair and consistent with each and every one of them," she said.

The David L. Moss Detention Center has a recommended capacity of about 1,650 inmates. Maximum bed space is 1,714, though the Tulsa County Commission approved the purchase of 200 new portable beds Monday night, with the expectation that the inmate population could approach 2,000 during the summer. It costs roughly $59 per day to house an inmate.


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The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of KOKI FOX23 - Tulsa

IRSMART27 - 6/5/2013 12:33 AM
0 Votes
Losing overtime pay sucks but most don't do too much as we were working 12 hour shifts. What is going to suck more is 8 hour shifts. Now we have to be at work 5 days a week instead of 3-4. Fuel and food cost goes up. Less time with families, daycare expenses rise, and days off change.

IRSMART27 - 6/5/2013 12:33 AM
0 Votes
Losing overtime pay sucks but most don't do too much as we were working 12 hour shifts. What is going to suck more is 8 hour shifts. Now we have to be at work 5 days a week instead of 3-4. Fuel and food cost goes up. Less time with families, daycare expenses rise, and days off change.

AF vet - 5/8/2013 11:12 PM
0 Votes
It is also a slap in the face when the sheriff gives out raises and promotions to his favorites. Not to mention the use of a county owned vehicle to use as they please. There needs to be changes made, starting at the top! Remember to vote.

Unwashed Mass - 5/7/2013 10:22 AM
0 Votes
OTOH, how do you suppose the jailers would react to loosing all that overtime pay?
 
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