Massachusetts' state prison population dropped 19% over the last four years, leading the state to have the lowest incarceration rate in the U.S., according to a Boston Globe investigation.
While the drop in prison population has helped save money, the newspaper also found overtime costs have nearly tripled over the same time period. Last year, correctional officers received $44.68 million in overtime, and that number is set to rise again this year.
Prison officials said the increased overtime costs are due to multiple factors including staff reductions, a new union contract and criminal justice reforms.
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Some critics said the money being used to cover overtime costs takes away from inmate programs including education, counseling and job training.
"They're saying there's no money in the budget, but that's hard to compute," with all the money being spent on overtime, Ben Forman, research director for MassInc., told the Globe.
Correctional officers have new expectations and responsibilities that are reflected in overtime pay, according to prison officials.
"At one time, there was more of a warehouse mentality," said Guy Glodis, former Worcester Country sheriff. "Now officers are involved with medication, they're involved with social work, they're involved with mental health."