STATEWIDE — Legislators are looking to give out extra benefits to help with all the stresses corrections officers and 911 dispatchers go through on their jobs.
In a bill proposed on Friday, a corrections officer who is injured by the acts of a person in the custody of the jail would receive supplemental paid benefits.
It would also add corrections officers and 911 dispatchers to a list of workers who qualify for the Maine Workers Compensation Act if they suffer from work-related PTSD.
“I am invested in acknowledging the strain that we’ve put on corrections workers, those answering 911 calls, as we continue to work to reform our criminal justice system and acknowledge the cost to inmates, to corrections workers and to the state as a whole. I ask you consider doing the right thing right now,” said Rep. Sarah Pebworth, D-Blue Hill.
A supporter of the bill cited the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which said corrections officers and jailers in 2014 suffered 53.5 work-related intentional injuries by another person per 10,000 full-time employees.
That number is higher than the equivalent rate for all workers from that year, including police and sheriff’s patrol officers.
“The inherent risks associate with being corrections and communications officer have been overlooked for a long time. The field of corrections and communications has evolved like many other professions over the years to more a dynamic role requiring more education, training, and support,” said Saco Mayor William Doyle.
An opponent of the bill says this pits municipal employers against municipal employees because the funding for these extra benefits would ultimately rely on taxpayer dollars.
“A friction is created when the legislature grants a benefit. You guys become the good guys. When we object to it because there are costs associated with it, we become the bad guys. What we’re asking is for the legislature to recognize is that there are costs associated with it,” said Maine Municipal Association Legislative Advocate Kate Dufour.