August 6, 2005 – After not being paid for overtime hours worked during the last nine months, Bureau of Corrections Officers took to the streets on Friday in hopes of having their voices heardand their demands met.
"We always put the community first but we haven't received the money we deserve in several months," corrections officer Allen Nibbs said. "We are subject to inhumane conditions, basically forced into working overtime hours, and we don't get any consideration the corrections officers in St. Croix got paid. Why can't we?"
Nibbs added that while he and fellow corrections officers have taken their concerns to acting Bureau director, Agnes George, nothing has improved. "So we're having a peaceful protest and hope that we can get something accomplished through that," Nibbs said.
Demonstrating in the government parking lot outside police headquarters in the Alexander A. Farrelly Criminal Justice Complex on St. Thomas, Nibbs and colleagues formed a line across the sidewalk, holding up signs and shouting for their rights.
"We are treated just like the prisoners we have to take care of," corrections officer Edward Somersall said. "Sometimes we're subject to work up to 60 overtime hours, because we have to be in lockdown with the inmates, make sure they're being watched. We can't even leave the building unless we're going to get something to eat. It's not right."
Somersall added that because of the close quarters, officers are inevitably subject to the same diseases as inmatesa range of everything from head lice to HIV. "We're incarcerated just like they are, and it's really stressful being in that kind of situation."
Joining the protest in early afternoon hours, Sen. Terrence "Positive" Nelson added some of his own concerns to the mix. "The officers have also been alleging that they haven't been able to get promoted within the corrections system because of heavy favoritism going on within the bureau. They have been told to retake the Sergeant Promotion test in order to apply for new positions, but others who haven't taken the test are being put in there when no one's looking."
Also angry about the lack of overtime pay, Nelson questioned where most of the money is going within the system. "Nothing is getting down to the service level people who are doing the work aren't getting the rewards."
Anxious to get something accomplished on Friday, Nelson and Sen. Celestino White, Sr. were on the phone during the protest to the Attorney General and the office of Governor Charles W. Turnbull.
After fifteen minutes of calls, White announced to officers that the acting Attorney General will be making a move to get paperwork filed for pay increases and better conditions by Monday. "The acting Attorney General agrees that something must be done immediately to fix the situation, and she's going to be on the phone with Agnes George to put things in motion," White said.
"Morale is low, we don't have proper uniforms, we're being spit on by released prisoners in the streets," another officer said in response. "I hope something does happen soon."
Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name, and the city and state/country or island where you reside.