116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — The Linn County Correctional Center has adjusted its agreement for housing federal inmates in an effort to address deputy complaints and resignations about overtime work at the jail.
Linn County Sheriff Brian Gardner said that because the jail has been short staffed, deputies have been required to work overtime to meet the minimum number of corrections officers required for each shift. The number of officers needed each day depends on the number of inmates.
“They have been complaining about that overtime that they’ve been required to work. In fact, we’ve lost some deputies, very good deputies, to other agencies because of the amount of overtime that we’re requiring them to work,” Gardner said.
Jail employees cannot to be scheduled for more than 16 hours — excluding mandatory training or meetings — in a 24-hour period. They are paid time and a half for any work that exceeds 40 hours per week, according to the contract between the county and the local Public Professional and Maintenance Employees Union.
The jail didn’t exceed its overtime budget for fiscal 2022. Of the $600,000 that was budgeted for overtime, Gardner reported $535,146 was spent. The bigger issue has been resignations.
There currently are 50 sheriff’s deputies and seven female civilian correctional officers assigned to the jail. Female civilian officers meet the requirement that the jail have at least one jail-certified female staff member in the building when there are female inmates. Because there are fewer female deputies than male, there isn’t always a female deputy working at the jail.
Female civilian correctional officers have the same authority in the jail as deputies, but are not certified peace officers and do not have arrest powers.
Since the beginning of this year, the sheriff’s office has lost four deputies and two civilian female officers. It has hired two new deputies and three new civilian female officers. Gardner said there still are five deputy sheriff positions currently open, with a few job offers outstanding.
Gardner said it has been difficult to fill open positions. The sheriff’s office used to offer deputy sheriff testing once or twice a year based on the numbers in the applicant pool, but now the office is testing about every three months.
One cause for the overtime has been requirements for the federal inmates held there, which usually constitute one-fourth to one-third of the jail’s total population.
As part of the jail’s contract with the U.S. Marshals Service and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, two deputies are required to accompany federal inmates when they leave the jail for things like a doctor’s appointment or to go to the hospital.
“If an inmate is taken to the hospital and admitted, that’s two deputies per shift per day, so you’re looking at six deputies (per day). And if you have multiple people at the hospital, it exacerbates the problem,” Gardner said.
To address the problem, Gardner reached a new agreement with the U.S. Marshals and ICE. Federal agencies will be required to transport their detainees to and from scheduled medical appointments. They also will take over the responsibility of guarding federal detainees within 10 hours of them being admitted to a hospital.
The changes fall within the parameters of the current contract between the jail and the federal agencies, which states that the local government agrees to provide transportation for federal inmates “subject to the availability of its personnel.”
The federal government pays Linn County $86 per inmate per day to house federal inmates. It also pays $43 per hour for time spent by Linn County deputies transporting and guarding federal inmates outside of the jail.
The Linn County Correctional Center isn’t the only jail dealing with overtime. Johnson County Sheriff Brad Kunkel said deputies in the Johnson County Jail have also been working overtime, but it’s not due to staffing shortages.
Kunkel said the jail is only down one deputy sheriff, and is working to fill that position. There are, however, other factors including deputies attending the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy.
“Vacation requests, illness, training, military leave and those at (Iowa Law Enforcement Academy) all affect overtime availability,” Kunkel said. “We’re definitely not having the staffing problems like other agencies who are down a lot of people.”
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