In July, Governor Kristi Noem started purging prison staff and dug into one-time money to temporarily offer retention bonuses and raise pay in hopes of addressing a severe staff shortage in South Dakota’s prisons. We now await California-based consultants CGL Companies’ report, due toward the end of December, on what else the state can do to improve Corrections operations.
Recommendation #1 will have to be to raise pay again to compete with Nebraska. Noem’s extra $1.50 an hour for night shift guards announced last August, would bring starting wages for that shift to $19.39. The Cornhusker State already pays starting wages higher than that and is still facing its own dire prison staff shortage. Thus, yesterday, Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts announced $8-an-hour raises:
Assuming the union approves the agreement, starting wages for corrections corporals and prison caseworkers will rise from $20 an hour to $28 an hour. Sergeants will get a bump from $24 an hour to $32 an hour.
…State Corrections Director Scott Frakes, at a town hall meeting last week, said the new contract represents “historic” improvements to compensation and working conditions.
He called the raises “game-changers” in terms of validating and paying people.
…The renegotiated contract also affects security workers at state regional centers, youth rehabilitation centers and at the Beatrice center that houses the developmentally disabled. Such facilities also have seen the exodus of workers and the need for more overtime. Their pay will rise from $17 an hour to $25 an hour [Paul Hammel and Sara Gentzler, “Nebraska Corrections Workers Get Hefty Raises in Hopes of Solving Staffing Crisis,” Lincoln Journal Star, 2021.11.10].
A South Dakota guard moving to Nebraska and seeing pay rise from $20 an hour to $28 an hour would enjoy a 40% raise. And according to the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center, the cost of living in Nebraska is 2.7% lower in Nebraska than it is in South Dakota, meaning a net gain of 44% in real purchasing power. That’s a lot of extra validation for anyone trying to make a living doing a really hard and dangerous job.