Prison guards made millions in overtime

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By AMY LINDBLOM and The Associated Press

In the midst of a budget crisis, California prison guards clocked $200 million worth of overtime last year, much of it as a result of workers calling in sick more often.

Of that $200 million, $11.6 million was paid to the 696 correctional officers who work at Sierra Conservation Center in Jamestown and at SCC fire camps, said Russ Heimerich, spokesman for the state Department of Corrections in Sacramento.

That figure puts SCC in the top five prisons in terms of overtime, he said.

The state's 23,000 correctional workers clocked 25 percent more overtime hours in 2002 than they did just two years earlier, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Statewide, at least 100 officers, sergeants and lieutenants made more than $100,000 each and one earned $145,000 more than the salary of the state attorney general.

Matt Kramer, SCC warden, said 24 correctional officers, 14 sergeants and 14 lieutenants each earned more than $100,000 a year. All but three officers earned overtime while working at SCC fire camps.

SCC is a training prison for inmate fire crews based at conservation camps, but often its crews-in-training are pressed into service on larger fires.

The top pay for a corrections officer is $54,888, but some guards nearly doubled their pay by working 1,000 hours or more of overtime. Underwood said officers receive hourly overtime which is 50 percent higher than their regular hourly pay after they have worked 40 hours in one week.

Heimerich gave several reasons for the increase:

? A change in the contract with the California Correctional Peace Officers Association lets officers call in sick without a doctor's note confirming the illness.

? Increased use of the state family medical leave rule that allows a state employee to take time off for a new baby or to care for a sick relative.

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