The union representing workers at the Lake County jail is expressing concerns over excessive overtime and staff shortages.
Labor leaders with the Teamsters Local 700 say mandatory overtime shifts are due to understaffing and are creating a potentially dangerous situation.
"Sheriff Curran and his jail administration are mandating the forced overtime because the jail is understaffed and has been for years," Teamsters Local 700 President Becky Strzechowski said. "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."
While three correctional officers have been hired in the past week, the union says that is nowhere near enough as workers at the facility are being forced to work 16-hour shifts at least once a week.
"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," the union, which represents about 200 workers at the facility, alleged in a statement. "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."
The county jail's undersheriff, Ray Rose, says the 14 correctional officers have been hired since April, but 12 employees have either retired, resigned or been terminated since that time. Rose says the extra overtime shifts have been caused by employee sick time and unavailablity.