DOVER, Del – Recent incidents at correctional facilities both in Delaware and nationally have highlighted the issue of staffing. The state’s Department of Corrections Commissioner, Claire DeMatteis took the post last month. She states that progress is being made.
In 2018 there were approximately 260 officer vacancies that needed to be filled, this year 180. A signing bonus program is credited for helping close the gap. “You get $1,500 when a cadet graduates and another $1,500 when they are there for at least two years,” DeMatteis said.
President of the Correctional Officers Association of Delaware Geoff Klopp is concerned about the compensation and benefits offered to for these positions. The starting salary is $43,000, a figure he claims is below what a person with similar skills can make on police forces in several of Delaware’s towns or cities.
“As long as that continues it will be an issue, “Klopp said. “For whatever reason the pay has never been the same as other law enforcement,”
Prior to becoming the ninth commissioner in state history, DeMatteis was a special assistant to the DOC and helped implement several recommendations resulting from a 2018 study. It was a study done in the wake of the 2017 siege at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna.
An area that is being addressed is overtime. “We have gone from officers being forced to work several mandatory overtime (shifts) a week to one last week at Vaughn,” DeMatteis said.
“We would definitely like to see overtime numbers getting lower,” Klopp stated. “We are moving in the right direction.”
More assistance to staffing and reducing overtime appears to be on the way. DeMatteis expects 45 cadets to graduate in September and add to the state’s correctional officer ranks.