Rising overtime costs at York County Prison lead to staff reorganization

David Weissman
York Dispatch
York County Prison in Springettsbury Township, Thursday, June 29, 2017. Dawn J. Sagert photo

In June alone, York County Prison employees worked more than 21,000 hours of overtime, costing the county more than $790,000.

Overall, overtime costs have nearly doubled at the prison since 2013, but county officials are budgeting for a sizable decrease in those costs amid a staff reorganization.

County Commissioner Doug Hoke, who serves as president of the prison board, said the county started considering changes when former Warden Mary Sabol retired at the beginning of the year.

The county brought in officials from the state Department of Corrections to serve as consultants, and the department formulated a report making recommendations for improving operations and saving money, Hoke said.

One of the biggest cost-drivers in the prison is paying staff for working overtime.

The county will spend an estimated $6.5 million on overtime at the prison this year, with total wages amounting to just under $25 million at the facility, according to the county budget.

More:County negotiates decrease for prison phone costs while adding tablets for inmates

More:York prison cited in ICE sexual harassment complaint

The prison had 542 employees as of Dec. 1, according to county spokesman Mark Walters.

Combined, those workers have already accrued more than 150,000 overtime hours through November, according to an analysis reviewed at the prison board's Dec. 12 meeting.

That analysis also showed the 21,000 overtime hours worked in June, the highest amount in a single month since at least 2014.

Prison overtime costs have increased every year since at least 2013 — when about 96,000 hours of overtime cost the county about $3.4 million — and the county had only budgeted for $4.5 million for prison overtime in 2017.

Warden Clair Doll, who was appointed in May, wrote in an email that the additional overtime hours are needed "to increase security posts to run the facility safely and to ensure that we are providing appropriate inmate services."

York County Prison Warden Clair Doll speaks during a prison board meeting at York County Prison in Springettsbury Township, Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017. Dawn J. Sagert photo

The county's contract with U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has also led to increased overtime needs, according to Hoke, though the agency reimburses for those costs — ICE overtime reimbursement was about $41,000 in November compared to nearly $560,000 overall.

A staff reorganization that includes a new unit management system and about 30 additional correctional officers is being implemented to increase communication and foster teamwork, according to Doll.

Hoke and other county officials are banking on that reorganization also reducing overtime costs, as the county has budgeted $5 million for those costs in 2018.

More:York County approves 2018 budget with no tax increase

Doll wrote that his staff is already seeing reduced overtime costs and expects that to continue.

— Reach David Weissman at dweissman@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @DispatchDavid.