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Attorney General Addresses Corrections Officers' Grievances

Aug. 11, 2005- Responding to demands made by Bureau of Corrections officers during a protest rally held last week outside the Alexander A. Farrelly Criminal Justice Complex, acting Attorney General Kerry Drue said Thursday that she is moving quickly to find solutions to some long-standing problems within the agency.
Drue says this week she met with the Bureau’s managerial team and discussed issues, including the failing air conditioning system in the St. Thomas jail. Drue added that she just learned this week that the system has been malfunctioning since 2004 and that a new unit is needed. "Now, this is going to take some time, because we have to acquire a larger system, but I am assured that upgrading the system is the most cost-effective method for solving the problem," Drue said.
Drue added that she has also addressed the issue of money owed to officers for overtime hours worked within the last nine months. "This problem has already been resolved … I know the officers have complained that they haven’t been paid for their overtime hours, and I spoke to the acting Bureau Director Agnes George who has agreed to work the money into officers' paychecks for the September 1 pay period."
Drue’s office also issued a press release Wednesday which further stated that a meeting has been held with Gov. Charles W. Turnbull and Lt. Gov. Vargrave Richards regarding the situation. "This is only the beginning of a series of regular meetings to ensure that the needs of the Bureau of Corrections are met in a timely manner," Drue said.
However, as Drue continues her efforts, the Bureau’s shop steward Allen Nibbs says that more executive action is needed if anything is going to improve. "The governor should come down to the jail himself and see what it’s like for us. I feel that if he were to see what we’re subject to everyday, then something would be able to get done a little faster," Nibbs said.
"I know it’s also being circulated that we’re going to get our overtime pay soon, but to tell the truth, nothing is going to happen because Ms. George hasn’t hired a payroll clerk as yet to process our checks, and an audit has to be conducted on our money books … I think those issues need to be taken care of first," Nibbs added. "The attorney general has to meet with the officers, too, instead of just with management … we’ll tell her what’s really going on."
Hoping to set up a meeting with Drue soon, Nibbs also mentioned that he is in the process of organizing a Senate hearing so that corrections officers get a shot to publicly vent their frustrations. "I think there’s a better chance of us getting what we need this way," Nibbs said. "These things have gone on too long, and there’s no way I’m taking it anymore."
But Nibbs isn’t the only one who’s fed up—Corrections Officer Edward Somersall is also making sure action is being taken by distributing a letter to the Source that describes the reality of life within the Bureau, and the lack of respect corrections officers get while on duty.
Entitled "The Unseen Force," Somersall's letter begins: "Unlike other class-three employees, such as police officers and firefighters, whose work can be seen by the public, corrections officers work mostly indoors, and out of sight … the term, "out of sight, out of mind," actually applies to us, because we receive the least respect of all the law enforcement agencies as our job holds little glory."
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