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Published on May 14th, 2013 | by Len Lazarick

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Indicted correctional officers were low paid

Second in a series on state salaries that began Tuesday. 

By Meg Tully

Meg@MarylandReporter.com

Maryland correctional services shoulder patchThirteen Maryland correctional officers indicted last month in a corruption case that has outraged legislators and the public were getting paid between $28,000 and $47,000 in 2012, according to salary figures from the comptroller’s office.

The 13 officers were indicted by a federal grand jury for allegedly helping members of the Black Guerilla Family gang smuggle in drugs, cell phones and other contraband. Four of the correctional officers also had babies fathered by the inmate gang leader.

Jeff Pittman, communications director for the employee union that represents correctional officers — the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) — said that the union doesn’t believe higher salaries will prevent corruption.

“The vast majority are doing [the job] at the current salary level,” Pittman said. “I don’t think offering someone more money makes them more honest.”

Starting pay for correctional officers is $36,414

The starting salary for correctional officers is $36,414, with $44,796 as the mid-point for an experienced correctional officer.

The four indicted correctional officers with the lowest pay had base salaries of $37,977 in 2012, according to the comptroller’s state payroll database. The full list is at the bottom of the story.

In terms of actual payment from the state, 27-year-old Antonia Allison was the lowest paid at $28,238. The difference between salary level and gross payment is not explained in salary records from the comptroller’s office, but it is likely due to employees taking leave or working reduced hours.

On the higher end, 26-year-old Ebonee Braswell made $47,035, including $7,020 in overtime.

All thirteen guards were considered full-time in 2012, according to Mark Vernareli, spokesman for lthe Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. The indicted officers were suspended without pay April 23.

“Ninety-nine percent of our correctional officers do their jobs with integrity, honor, and ethics at the current salary levels,” Vernarelli stated in an e-mail.

Attracting better officers

The indictments have caused state leaders to question how they can attract better correctional officer candidates and crack down on bad behavior.

According to Vernarelli, about four out of five applicants for correctional officer positions in Baltimore last year (83%) did not pass background investigations. The rejection rate is high in other regions of the state, as well.

AFSCME Maryland has called for better training, higher staffing levels, and careful hiring as potential solutions to the problem not related to salaries.

“Fair pay and fair benefits will help attract the best employees, but in this it’s about finding people of integrity to fill these important roles,” Pittman said.

In the first part of the series which ran Tuesday, MarylandReporter.com found almost 5,700 state workers made $100,000 or more.

Pay records in 2012 for indicted correctional officers:

Name, Age, City, Annual Salary, Actual Payment Including Overtime

Antonia Allison, 27, of Baltimore; salary $40,814, $28,239

Ebonee Braswell, 26, of Baltimore; $41,567, $47,035

Chania Brooks, 27, of Baltimore; $41,567, $38,486

Kimberly Dennis, 26, of Baltimore; $41,567, $45,232

Jasmin Jones, a/k/a J.J., 24, of Baltimore; $39,365, $38,014

Taryn Kirkland, 23, of Baltimore; $37,977, $39,488

Katrina LaPrade, a/k/a Katrina Lyons, 31, of Baltimore; $37,977, $36,161

Tiffany Linder, 27, of Baltimore;$37,977, $40,311.80

Vivian Matthews, 25, of Essex; $40,814, $40,242

Jennifer Owens, a/k/a O and J.O., 31, of Randallstown; $39,365, $37,843

Adrena Rice, 25, of Baltimore; $39,365, $35,222

Katera Stevenson, a/k/a KK, 24, of Baltimore; $37,977, $43,533

Jasmine Thornton, a/k/a J.T., 26, of Glen Burnie, $39,365, $40,404

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  • lenlazarick

    Got this interest comment from “Ed” a union guy:

    Before I start I want to let you know I am a Union member who happens to also be a Union official in a
    Building Trades Affiliated Union.

    When I opened this email and read that headline I was amazed and chagrined all at the same
    time! Chamazed if you will, but I digress.

    The implication that somehow a person’s character and duty to service is
    based on compensation (read: Enron) shows that you might be either
    extremely naive or a shill for the public sector Unions. Maybe I am out
    of line in surmising this about you but jeez, the indicted were being
    controlled by the element they were supposed to be controlling. If I were
    a corrections officer then I would be embarrassed for my Union and vocation if
    the pay was to blame for the transgressions of these few. The bottom line was that the inmates and
    guards were from the same world, no surprise what was going on, indeed the system heads knew enough to ask
    for help long ago.

    I did a little math and using the $36,000 low salary figure that you provided multiplied by 2000 hours
    (avg. yearly hours worked based on a 40 hour week) I came up with $18.00 per
    hour and while that is not Mayo Shattuk bucks it aint WalMart greeters salary
    either. Maybe you can clarify wages/work hours to show where the
    “low paid” fits in other than the fact the lowest paid of these indicted officers seemingly did not work or missed work opportunities for some reason (I suspect she regularly worked a forty but the liquid type, not the
    hourly). This is in context to the previous article in the series where salaries over $100,000. Per year was
    explored (I took time to read it before composing this diatribe). The fact that most of those high earners had
    an MD or PhD attached to their names supports the rate I suppose (as for the
    coach, someone must manage the show at the modern day coliseum).

    At any rate we in the private Union sector are in the box, being lowered in the ground because of
    laws that restrain our ability to organize (in the name of commerce of course)
    and our own inability to articulate for all hourly workers while our public
    sector brothers and sisters are under attack nationwide due to the
    politicization of their mission.

    A headline like the one written for your article is a dream for the
    writers at the Daily Show or Fox and does none of any good but more importantly
    it is irrelevant to the subject matter IMO.

    Just my $0.02, no personal indictment, just an observation from a Union guy who hates to see
    unethical and illegal personal behavior politicized.

    The good news is now I
    know about this (e) rag and will bookmark it!

    Thank
    you,

    Ed

  • Justthefactsma’am

    News flash, most of the crooks in the Baltimore jails grew up in ? Wait for it, that’s right Bmore. And most of the the officers at the jails and their families grew up and live in Bmore. So guess who knows each other who has a friend of a friend or knows where your family lives? That’s why you do not have these type of problems in the Hagerstown prisons, where officers and inmates did not grow up together. As to the female officers getting pregnant from by inmates ,never had that problem when the Officers were all men duh.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Dale-McNamee/100002467161143 Dale McNamee

    ” Low wages ” do not necessarily correlate with low morals… A lack of religious and moral training does…
    Where are the black ministers at,except when they try to extort money from the City Council and the Baltimore City taxpayers ?
    $ 17+ to $20+ per hour is very good money… Although not enough for “bling” and “living large”…

  • citizen

    Well, I think a starting salary of$36,414 is pretty good, especially when you consider their benefits.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Bob-Higginbotham/100000261072379 Bob Higginbotham

    Level of compensation is no excuse for flagrant corruption. The corruption has been going on long enough to include O’Malley when he was mayor. Now as governor for the past 7 years he completely ignored the situation and now claims it is “good thing” to have it surface. Although it won’t happen he should be held accountable along with the overseer of all correctional facilities in Maryland. I don’t know which is worse, the corruption or the governor that ignores it.

  • MarylandEsquire

    Many State workers (including COs) are underpaid for the work they do. Low wages do not justify a worker (allegedly) engaging in gang activity and sexual liaisons with convicted criminals under their watch, all while being paid with taxpayer dollars. It’s a bit offensive that one would try to correlate low wages with low ethics.

    That being said, the wages for COs (and many other State jobs) are impediments to getting the best-qualified candidates for the jobs, as more can be earned in the private sector. For anyone hired after July 2011, the benefits (e.g., pension) are not nearly as good as the were prior to July 2011 or what the general public seems to believe the benefits are.

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