About 6,000 California corrections officers earned more than $100,000 in the last fiscal year thanks to overtime work in the strained prison system, and one brought in more than a quarter of a million.
Overtime added $220 million to the $453 million base pay for those prison workers, the Los Angeles Times reported Saturday. More than 900 of them earned $50,000 or more in overtime alone.
Overtime costs have soared since the officers' current labor contract took effect five years ago, rising 24 percent in the third quarter of this year compared to the same point last year, the newspaper reported.
"This business of overtime is just out of control," said Lew Uhler, president of the Sacramento-based National Tax Limitation Committee. "If you had a comparable situation in the private sector, the management would have been fired long ago."
Chuck Alexander, executive vice president of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, said a shortage of officers makes the overtime necessary.
"I can't have a control booth vacant," Alexander said. "We have to fill our positions."
The biggest payout to a corrections officer for the fiscal year that ended in June was $252,570, which went to a lieutenant. That's more than the salaries of the corrections chief, who makes $225,000, and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who declined what would be a $206,500 paycheck this year.
Schwarzenegger has vowed to reform the nation's largest prison system, which incarcerates almost 174,000 people in 33 prisons that were designed to hold 100,000. He has announced a plan to ease crowding by building prisons, rehabilitating prisoners to cut down on repeat offenders and reviewing sentencing laws that lock up many nonviolent criminals.
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