ORISKANY, N.Y. - The union that represents corrections officers at the Oneida County Jail is speaking out.
Local representatives of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees union, or AFSCME, say the jail is so short staffed, that if the county doesn't hire more officers, public safety could be jeopardized.
AFSCME Council 82 Secretary Luis Roman says there are 56 current vacancies at the jail and that means the remaining 144 officers have to work mandatory overtime, to an extreme, to cover all of the shifts, and says they have been doing so for quite a while now.
Roman brought some state officials together on Monday to let them know of their frustrations.
Roman says a large number of officers have left because the amount of mandatory overtime was too much for them and their families and says in some cases, has even contributed to a number of divorces.
He says if something doesn't change, more and more officers will leave, "Policy issues that are going on here at the facility have moved people away from this job. Have it be reduced time off, time away from home, we have to do something or we can keep hemorrhaging. You know we have more and more people from the top or the middle leaving, they don't wanna be here anymore, they don't want to go through what's going on here so we have to do something to help with retention."
Roman says Oneida County was awarded $44 million from the American Rescue Plan to help with paying back county employees who have worked through the pandemic, but says the county has chosen not to use the money for that purpose.
He says $22 million of the $44 million has already come in to Oneida County, "I'm proposing that something is done to get that money to the staff that is going through all of this in the county. To take proactive position on retaining our employees, recruiting the employees. That doesn't seem like it's on the forefront."
We did receive the following statement from Oneida County Sheriff Rob Maciol Monday afternoon :
"Jail staffing has historically always been a struggle for Sheriffs, although the last two years certainly has been the most challenging with us having as many as 60 full time vacancies just a few weeks ago. I am happy that the hard work of our Community Affairs Unit and our Office Manager hosting several job fairs and attending dozens of community events with recruiting efforts has resulted so far in the hiring of nearly a dozen new employees with more than thirty potential candidates currently having background investigations done along with having their polygraphs and psychological exams being scheduled. I constantly praise and applaud the dedication and commitment of the Corrections Officers who are working these long hours every chance I get and my administration is always open to hear the concerns of officers. As Sheriff I have toured the jail many times, I regularly speak with Corrections Officers on a wide array of topics, and most recently Undersheriff Lisi has met with nearly every Correction Officer to hear any concerns with operations and conditions here at the jail – of which many have already been addressed. My door is always open to any employee to meet with me and countless employees over my eleven years so far as Sheriff have taken the opportunity to do so. I also lobby continuously for better pay and benefits for the members of the Sheriff's Office – both of which are out of my control."
The funding must come from the county.
We contacted County Executive Anthony Picente's office late Monday afternoon, but a spokesperson said the county executive was out of the office all day, but he will be available on Tuesday to follow up.
We will stay on the story.