An Inspector General’s report highlights concerns regarding workers’ compensation lost wage benefits for correctional officers, following numerous complaints of potential abuse of the system.
These benefits are intended for workers who suffer job-related injuries, with provisions allowing for six months of full pay without the need to use leave time.
The report points to a potential correlation between these generous benefits and staff shortages in state prisons, with one in three correction officers at 10% of prisons filing for workers’ compensation over seven years. For the 2020-21 fiscal year, state prisons covered around 1.8 million hours of staff absence due to workers’ compensation, marking a 61% rise over a decade and a 9% increase from the previous year.
The report warns that the rise in claims and associated overtime costs negatively impact morale among officers and indicates possible fraud, with nearly 70% of claims unrelated to contact with inmates. Currently, over 10% of security staff in eight prisons are on workers’ compensation leave, peaking at 17% in three facilities.
Inspector General Lucy Lang has instructed the lead attorneys for workers’ compensation fraud and prison-related matters to investigate this “workers’ compensation-fueled staffing crisis.” Amid ongoing contract negotiations with the unions representing state corrections officers, the Inspector General’s office has recommended modifying the lost wage benefit in the new contract.
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