TOPEKA, Kan. — The Latest on problems at Kansas prisons (all times local):
The Kansas Senate’s top Republican says reports of staffing shortages and other problems at state prisons are “very disturbing.”
But Senate President Susan Wagle of Wichita stopped short Friday of endorsing a special session of the Legislature to increase pay for corrections officers.
Wagle said she is seeking more information from the Department of Corrections and will wait for answers before asking GOP Gov. Sam Brownback to call lawmakers into special session. Lawmakers adjourned for the year in June and aren’t set to reconvene until January.
The maximum-security prison in El Dorado has seen several inmate disturbances in recent months. Corrections officials blame a high employee turnover rate there and at other prisons on low pay for officers.
Republican Rep. J.R. Claeys has called for a special session by September.
Democratic legislators are calling on the Kansas Department of Corrections to increase the pay for officers at its prisons by 10 percent on Sept. 1.
House Minority Leader Jim Ward of Wichita said Friday that he believes Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration has the legal authority to boost pay for officers now without legislative action. He said lawmakers can then appropriate extra money to cover the raises when they convene their next annual session in January.
Ward called for action by Brownback’s administration as Republican Rep. J.R. Claeys of Salina called for a special legislative session this fall to increase pay for corrections officers. Lawmakers adjourned for the year in June.
Lawmakers in both parties worry that low pay fuels staffing shortages that make prisons more dangerous to manage.
A Republican lawmaker who advocates increasing pay for Kansas corrections officers is calling for a special session of the Legislature to do it immediately.
Rep. J.R. Claeys of Salina said Friday that he worries that staffing shortages at state prisons are putting officers at risk.
Claeys is chairman of a House budget subcommittee on public safety and said low pay for corrections officers is a major issue in staffing shortages. It starts at $13.95 an hour.
He said the state needs to get ahead of the issue before an officer is hurt or killed.
The state’s maximum-security prison in El Dorado has seen multiple inmate disturbances in the past three months. About 23 percent of its uniformed-officer positions were open as of Tuesday.
Lawmakers adjourned for the year in June.