Corrections officers get a pay raise as prison staff shortages continue
Montana officials are looking at different ways to address a staffing shortage and tight capacity at the state prison, including pay raises and expanding a contract with a private prison.
Gov. Greg Gianforte signed a bill at the state prison Wednesday that will give pay raises to corrections workers.
“I want to thank you all for your hard work and dedication here in Deer Lodge. So without any further ado, I’m going to sign the bill and give you a raise,” Gianforte said.
Staff at the Montana State Prison will see a $2 an hour raise, while employees of the Montana Womens’ Prison and Pine Hills Correctional Facility will see raises at $3 an hour. A separate bill that would raise pay for all state employees, including in corrections, is working its way through the state Legislature.
Associate Warden DJ Godfrey says the pay raises will undoubtedly help with recruitment and retention of staff, but a lack of affordable housing in the area is still an issue.
“The pay raises are great, but that doesn’t match what the housing costs is,” Godfrey said.
Corrections Director Brian Gootkin said the prison had more than 100 vacant positions at one point last year, and is now down to around 85 vacancies.
This week, state lawmakers voted to add funding to the state’s preliminary budget to pay for the transfer of 120 prison inmates to a private prison in Arizona run by CoreCivic. Republicans supported the proposal, saying it would address the limited capacity in Montana, but Democrats pushed back, saying it would make it challenging for families to visit inmates.
In addition to raising employee pay, Gianforte is pushing for the Legislature to pass a $200 million plan for infrastructure improvements at the prison.