August 29, 2023 An audit by the Office of Allegheny County Controller Corey O’Connor found that the Allegheny County Jail is short-staffed by more than 100 Corrections Officers (COs), and that more than half of budgeted healthcare positions at the facility are vacant.
“Hiring is a challenge across employment sectors currently, and staffing a stressful, 24-7 operation like the Jail is even more difficult,” O’Connor said. “As the County transitions to a new administration and a new warden, it must devise new strategies to attract and retain staff for the Jail. I hope our audit provides a basis for discussions that will lead to long overdue solutions to address these shortages.”
Among notable findings:
- As of September 30, 2022, there were approximately 377 COs employed at the Jail. The audit found that 504 would be needed to cover all shifts without overtime.
- Currently, 38 percent of COs need to work overtime each day to cover all shifts.
- On each of 18 days examined not enough COs were scheduled to cover all shifts even before any call-offs occurred. The average shortage on these days was 30 COs before call-offs. After call-offs, the shortage increased to 53 COs.
- More than $8.9 million was paid to COs for overtime in 2021 and almost $6.8 million was paid between January and September 2022. Overtime accounted for more than a quarter of total pay to COs in both years.
To reduce overwork and increase retention, auditors recommended moving to an electronic scheduling system from the current manual system, adopting stress-management and wellness programs, and increasing recruitment efforts in counties surrounding Allegheny County, which was recently authorized by County Council.
For healthcare within the Jail, the County contracts with Allegheny Health Network (AHN) for provider services which include doctors, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants. Non-provider medical personnel are employed by the County or through temporary staffing agencies.
- For 2022, the Jail budgeted a total of 146 healthcare positions. Auditors found 84 of these were vacant as of December 2022.
- Staffing agency employees and County employee overtime covered the equivalent of approximately 20 full-time positions in December 2022, reducing the adjusted number to 64 vacant positions as of December 2022. This 44 percent vacancy rate shows healthcare positions in the Jail are grossly understaffed.
- Understaffing in some positions was particularly acute. As an example, there are eight budgeted therapist positions, and at year-end all eight were vacant.
Auditors recommended offering hiring incentives, implementing telehealth visits when possible, and improving communication between management and staff to decrease the staffing shortage.