Not my problem anymore, I hope.
In Scott Walker's Wisconsin, the situation at Columbia Correctional Institution is dire. It is a maximum security prison for the state's most violent offenders, designed to hold 541 prisoners but currently holding over 800. And as the Cap Times explains, in the wake of Act 10, the set of laws designed by Gov. Walker and state Republicans to gut public worker pay and protections, nobody wants to work there
Guards, both current and recently retired, attribute the exodus of employees to crushing workloads, compromised safety and stagnant pay in the wake of the state’s elimination of collective bargaining rights in 2011. And with starting wages at $15.20 per hour — well below the pay at county lockups and guard positions in surrounding states — the state is having a hard time filling the void.
“They’re working nights, weekends and holidays at a maximum security prison,” said Jim. “They can make that money at Wal-Mart.”
The prison needs about 230 guards, but site veterans are retiring and rookies aren't interested in taking on a dangerous job with low pay, few worker protections, and no possibility that you'll be treated any better in the future. So about 50 of those positions are unfilled; guards say there's been as many as 70 openings at once recently.
“The work rules changed, the amount of safety and protections changed,” said Below, “and it spiraled out of control since then.”
New rules that put mandatory overtime on a rotating basis rather than basing it on seniority have fostered resentment among senior staffers. [...]
“Even the rookies don’t like it because now they see their vacation is never going to get better in 30 years,” he said.
The end result is, as expected, an increasingly dangerous situation with fewer veteran guards and more, less rigorously trained rookies—when the positions can be staffed at all. While guards and the management unsurprisingly have different viewpoints as to the urgency of the situation, a string of violent incidents at the prison, the low pay relative to comparable positions in other states (and even at Wisconsin county jails), and the low morale of guards is undisputed.
“The only way this is going to change is if we have a riot,” said Bill, a veteran guard who asked that we not use his real name. “That’s what we’re getting to at the prison here.”
It turns out, then, that while gutting public sector pay can be a boon for your Republican presidential resume, there do tend to be consequences to these things. Like a traveling pitchman selling small towns across America the notion of having their very own monorails, Scott Walker now seeks to get out of town before those consequences reach their inevitable conclusions.