A plan to raise wages
In 2021, the Department of Corrections asked a committee of the State Legislature to take a major step to stabilize the prison system: A $5-an-hour pay bump for corrections officers and sergeants, with extra pay available for workers at maximum security prisons.
At the time the state had amassed a $2.5 billion surplus, and the booming job market was hurting recruitment efforts. During a hearing on the proposal, a state official testified that corrections officers were leaving for higher wages at convenience stores and factories. Others were leaving to work as officers at county jails, which were offering attractive bonuses and a starting wage of $25 an hour, she said, compared with $19 an hour at the state prisons.
In testimony and letters to the legislative committee, guard after guard said their facilities were in dire crises.
One young officer, Lucas Meier, said a colleague was beaten unconscious by an inmate. The assault stopped because “the inmate, frankly, got tired,” he said.
George Kraemer, a sergeant at Dodge Correctional, an intake facility, described one overnight shift in 2021 when a single guard had to monitor 144 inmates in two separate barracks-style dormitories — leaving 72 prisoners unsupervised at any given time.