Racine County considering boosting jail workers' pay

NOW: Racine County considering boosting jail workers’ pay

RACINE, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Five weeks after two men died in custody at the Racine County Jail, a proposal to increase jail workers' pay by 35 percent is headed to the county board.

The pay bump is meant to reverse a staffing shortage.

Racine County Sheriff's Office Public Information Officer Sgt. Michael Luell said turnover has been a major challenge.

He said it's not uncommon to have two or three jailers quit a week.

He said they've replaced the entire staff in two and a half years.

"That certainly can affect both the safety of the staff and the safety of our inmates," said Luell.

He said the Kenosha County Sheriff's Office is investigating whether staffing played a role in the deaths of two men inside the jail five weeks ago. He said the jail's shortage needs to be addressed.

"We want Racine County to be the gold standard, where other qualified employees come from other jurisdictions and work for Racine County," said Luell.

"We were trying to address this issue long before the the two tragedies in our jail," said Racine County Executive Jonathan Delagrave.

He said the starting pay for jail workers will increase from $44,000 per year to $60,000 per year. He said that would bump Racine County from near the bottom to the top of the pay scale of surrounding communities.

"We want to provide an environment that's not only safe for the inmates in our jail, but our own correctional officers as well," said Delagrave.

The pay increases will also go toward 911 dispatchers and highway crew salaries.

"It's really hard to retain those employees, especially when the work environment is not very, I guess, calm," said 4th District Supervisor Melissa Kaprelian.

She hasn't seen the proposal yet, but she said anything the county can do to keep staff is critical.

"We want to retain the very best employees," said Kaprelian.

The county is using federal money to cover the increased salaries.

It will then build those salaries into the budget over the next four years.

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