NJDOC: State prison officers must work 7 days a week into 2022, due to COVID
All state Department of Corrections police officers have been ordered to work a seven-day work week through New Year’s weekend, as the DOC suspended all vacation time, regular days off or other leave for correctional police officers at state facilities through at least Monday, citing another COVID staffing shortage.
Such a work schedule has never been announced by the NJDOC before, even earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic, according to NJ PBA Local 105 President William Sullivan on Friday in response to New Jersey 101.5.
The union represents about 5,000 correctional police and parole officers working in the state's prison facilities.
All correctional officers would receive typical overtime pay during their cancelled time off, according to a letter issued by Northern State Prison in Newark to its staff, as obtained by New Jersey 101.5.
Sullivan said the move was made without state prisons being in lockdown — which would be a typical step amid a crisis.
An email to a DOC spokesperson on Friday was met with an automated message about being out of the office for the holidays until Monday.
"Correctional police officers have been tasked heavily since the start of the pandemic, inmate assaults on officers have reached a new high and now staff is being told we cannot use the time we earned to go home and see our families,” Sullivan said in a written statement released on Twitter by the NJPBA.
“We understand that COVID-19 levels have been trending upward, but if the Department is in crisis, our prisons would be on lockdown, which is not the case,” he continued.
He said the mental health of staff was in “grave danger.”
Other state workers, stay home
As NJDOC correctional officers were told to report to work every day for the next week, other state workers were told to stay home, literally — as the state announced it was returning to a hybrid work schedule.
“In order to reduce the number of individuals in office settings at any one time, promote social distancing, and safeguard the health and safety of state employees following the holidays, state employees will report to offices on a hybrid basis through January 10, 2022,” a spokeswoman for Gov. Phil Murphy said to NJ Advance Media on Monday, while the governor himself remained on vacation.
Murphy and his family were due to return to New Jersey from Costa Rica on Thursday.