Democratic members of the Kansas House of Representatives are calling for the Kansas Department of Corrections to increase the pay of corrections officers by 10 percent.

Democratic members of the Kansas House of Representatives are calling for the Kansas Department of Corrections to increase the pay of corrections officers by 10 percent.

State Reps. Jeff Pittman, D-Leavenworth, and Debbie Deere, D-Lansing, joined House Democratic Leader Jim Ward of Wichita for a press conference Friday outside of the Lansing Correctional Facility.

Rep. Tom Burroughs, D-Kansas City, Kansas, also participated in the press conference, which followed media reports about staffing shortages in the state’s prisons as well as inmate disturbances at a prison in El Dorado.

“We have a crisis in our prison system in Kansas today,” Ward said.

He argued Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration should implement the 10-percent pay increase by Sept. 1.

He said money already allocated to the Kansas Department of Corrections for the current fiscal year can be used to pay for raises. He said the Kansas Legislature can provide supplemental funding to KDOC to cover the expense of the pay increase after lawmakers begin their next session in January.

“Our corrections staff need more pay,” Deere said.

She said LCF competes for workers with other employers in the Kansas City metropolitan area including other correctional facilities in Leavenworth County.

Lansing Mayor Mike Smith and Robert Choromanski, executive director of the Kansas Organization of State Employees, a labor union, also participated in the press conference.

Smith voiced support for increasing the pay of employees at LCF.

“This pay has to be fixed,” he said.

As of Tuesday, the KDOC had an overall vacancy rate of 13.2 percent among uniformed officers at its eight prisons, according to the Associated Press.

The vacancy rate for non-uniformed positions was 6.2 percent.

Ward also asked that the KDOC stop transferring inmates from LCF to the El Dorado Correctional Facility, which he said creates more pressure at the El Dorado facility.

Pittman said lawmakers support the construction of a new prison at the LCF site. He said a new facility will be more secure and safe.

KDOC officials have argued that using a lease-purchase agreement to build a new prison in Lansing is a cheaper option than issuing bonds.

But based on an audit, it now appears the use of bonds would be the cheaper option, Pittman said.

He said KDOC officials had neglected to include money for the state’s eventual purchase of the property at the end of the lease agreement.

A message left for a spokesman for the Kansas Department of Corrections was not immediately returned Friday.

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