Lake County correctional officers are being forced to work overtime, enduring 16-hour shifts – more than once a week in some cases – causing yet another safety concern at the jail.
“Sheriff Curran and his jail administration are mandating the forced overtime because the jail is understaffed and has been for years,” said Becky Strzechowski, Teamsters Local 700 President. “Due to the long hours, officers are battling extreme fatigue that is leading to some confusion and puts themselves and the inmates at risk of dangerous situations. They are trying to multi-task their assignments and are losing concentration, which is nothing short of a potential safety hazard.”
Only three new officers have been hired in the last month, which is not nearly enough to cover the amount of vacancies needed to run normal shifts at the jail.
Nearly a daily occurrence, the line supervisors will put out a vacancy notice for the upcoming shift. If no one volunteers to take it, they go to the rotating list of officers to see who is up next for overtime. In lieu of trying to stay at work for 16 consecutive hours, officers have no choice but to take a sick day for fear of collapsing while on the job. The female correctional officers are excessively impacted by the overtime regulation because of their specific assignments that only female officers can attend to.
These safety issues also pose a liability to the inmates in the jail. The correctional officers are highly skilled and trained law enforcement professionals, but if they are disoriented from being overtired and overworked, there’s a greater chance for accidents.
“This process is exhaustive and the officers cannot withstand it anymore,” said President Strzechowski. “Our members are committed to their jobs and keeping each other and the inmates in a secure environment and are struggling every day.”
This isn’t the first time the Sheriff has completely disregarded the safety of the officers.
At end of last year, the Lake County correctional officers were faced with legitimate safety concerns at work due to inoperable radios and elevators throughout the facility. During a labor management meeting with jail administration, Local 700 discussed the issue and read letters from officers who experienced getting stuck in the elevator or were injured from trying to get out and had no way to communicate and feared for their safety. One officer was lucky to survive an inmate attack after the delayed response time from other officers with broken radios.
February rolled around and still nothing had been done. It was only after Teamsters Local 700 alerted the media to these issues that they were finally fixed.
“Sheriff Curran is a lawyer by trade and has no law enforcement background or experience,” said President Strzechowski. “It is clear he is only using his tenure as Sheriff to advance his political career and doesn’t care about the safety or well-being of the correctional officers. Teamsters Local 700 will continue to fight for the proper working conditions our officers deserve and will grieve against the Sheriff’s unjust discipline.”
Teamsters Local 700 represents nearly 200 dedicated law enforcement members within the Lake County Department of Corrections.