NYC Correction Department overtime soaring past initial estimates

By: 
REUVEN BLAU

Overtime expenses at the city Correction Department continue to skyrocket past initial projections despite a record hiring spree, a new report shows.

The mayor's 2018 preliminary budget includes an additional $52 million in city cash to cover overtime costs, with total outlays now expected to hit $165 million next year, according to the city’s Independent Budget Office.

That’s a 46% increase from the initial estimate, records show.

Department brass say the OT is needed to staff security posts in housing areas filled with inmates prone to act out.

The department has also moved more officers into the specialized Enhanced Supervision Unit where inmates are sent after attacking others. That unit serves in part as a substitute for solitary confinement cells as the department moves to drastically reduce the number of detainees placed in isolation.

Correction Commissioner Joseph Ponte has also added recreation and education offerings for inmates which require extra officers to monitor. The classes cover basic reading and writing as well as food protection, horticulture, computer training, yoga, and film editing.

Overtime at the agency has been a problem for over a decade and city bean counters now believe it will cost at least $150 million each year through 2021.

That’s still better than it’s been — the tab hit a record high of $256.8 million last fiscal year.

The number is expected to drop to around $240 million this fiscal year, according to the Independent Budget Office.

At the same time, the department has hired 3,646 new recruits in since May 2014.

Still, slashings in city jails increased from 131 in 2015 to 155 in 2016-an 18% spike.

The union representing jail officers said the overtime has forced some of its members to work double, and even triple, shifts.

"Many of these officers working double and triple tours don't even get a meal release, compromising their safety and the safety of the facilities," said Elias Husamudeen, president of the Correction Officers Benevolent Association.

Jail officials said that is coming to an end.

“The department has recently reduced average daily overtime by 30% and triple tours by 95%, with the goal of eliminating them,” said department spokesman Peter Thorne. “The average monthly uniformed OT for the ranks of Correction Officer through Assistant Deputy Warden is now 40.5 hours a month, a 12% drop from 46 hours a month before the last recruit class came onboard in early November.”