VIRGINIA (WVEC) -- Officers who put their lives on the line inside Virginia prisons will soon get raises. 13News Now investigated a “Crisis in Corrections,” where corrections officers told us the situation inside prisons could be a danger to the public.
13News Now brought the investigation to state lawmakers to shed light on an issue, which jeopardizes safety. They watched the story as they negotiated a budget deal over the last two months.
“Everybody deserves a safe place to work,” Del. Cheryl Turpin said.
The investigation uncovered Virginia prisons' turnover rate is very high and staffing so low. Corrections officers said it is “a time bomb ticking.”
“I think you're bringing to light some of the more important criminal justice issues that we're dealing with right now,” Del. Mike Mullin said.
It's an issue lawmakers believed wasn't a top priority in original budget talks.
“Clearly, I think your efforts here at Channel 13 have moved that up on the priority list because certainly if we're not aware of a problem, it's very difficult for us to fix something that we're not aware of,” Sen. Frank Wagner said.
The first budget proposal included a two-percent raise for all state employees and a raise for corrections officers. When Governor Northam signed the final budget last week, the amount for corrections officers and state employees nearly doubled.
“We recognize that there are many needs, but some outweigh the others,” Wagner said when a deal was reached. “Certainly, addressing the issues of our corrections officers is one of those important needs.”
Next year, correctional officers will get a $2,016 raise, each, and another two-percent on top of that.
“Reporting those issues, bringing the public's attention to it is important and certainly we've addressed the problem,” Wagner said.
Even with this extra money, the average salary of Virginia COs is still about $9,000 less than the national average.
“It's a great start recognizing the important job they do on behalf of all of us,” Wagner said.
Since Virginia's budget is biennial, the spending plan includes those raises for two years.
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