State prison faces ’emergency staffing issues’

A state prison in Nashville that houses men with mental illnesses is facing a “emergency staffing issues” and has put out an “all hands on deck” call to remaining guards, reports The Tennessean.

The manpower shortage at the Lois M. DeBerry Special Needs Facility worsened after the prison implemented a 28-day schedule — a change intended to save $1.4 million statewide in wage costs.

The new staffing schedule has been implemented in prisons statewide, including others in Nashville that already had high turnover rates. Corrections officers moved from a traditional 40-hour work week with overtime to a system that requires overtime when the hours worked exceed 212 in a 28-day work period.

The new schedule didn’t cause the manpower shortages, but it did make it harder for the workers to plan for family obligations and part-time jobs.

…Robert Bell, the training specialist at Lois DeBerry, characterized the situation as an “emergency staffing” issue in a July 2 email.

The same day, Stevenson Nixon, the warden, ordered that any non-security employees who had previously worked in that capacity be ready to provide “coverage in ANY area the shift supervisor is in need of assistance.”

Some officers have had to work back-to-back shifts. Calling back former corrections officers who hold other jobs within the prison is intended to give relief to those officers.

“Effective immediately, there will no longer be requirements for any staff members to work back to back overtime in a 24 hour period,” Nixon wrote.

Another email issued the same day by the associate warden of security, Charles Simmons, directed the day shift corrections officers to work other hours.

“Due to our present staffing shortage on our Security Team, it is necessary to suspend our present Day Shift staff until further notice,” Simmons wrote “All officers assigned to Day Shift will be used daily to man vacant mandatory posts on each shift to allow us to continue operating the facility as a safe and secure prison, as well as, relieve your coworkers of excessive hours and days required to work.”