DOVER, Del. - After two months of negotiations between Governor John Carney and the correctional officers union, they have reached an agreement in the hopes of improving working conditions across Delaware's correctional system.
"I can tell you that the atmosphere has changed immediately inside the correctional facilities for the staff members to know that the governor's office is engaged," says Geoff Klopp, the President of Correctional Officers Association of Delaware.
The agreement comes four months after a 16 year veteran of the Delaware department of corrections was killed during an inmate uprising at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center.
Part of this agreement is increasing pay for officers by 22 percent over the course of 2 years.
Klopp says starting salary for officers is around $35,000. Under the agreement, starting would increase to $40,000 for fiscal year 2018 and $43,000 by 2019.
The agreement will also create a labor management committee.
"The committee with be composed of 3 members of the correctional officers union and 3 members from DOC administration," says Klopp.
This group will study ways to recruit and retain officers. As of Tuesday, the Delaware Department of Corrections has 180 vacancies.
"One of be issues we've been dealing with is we've had increasing retirement for lots of different reasons, the aging tenure of the workforce, the fact that they are eligible to retire earlier. So it's like filling a glass that has a hole in the bottom," says Governor Carney.
Governor Carney says changes to the Department of Corrections will not happen overnight, and would need the General Assembly's approval for funding to carry out this agreement.
"This is a tremendous first step in the right direction,' says Klopp.
We're told no timeline has been set on when the labor-management committee would deliver a report of their findings.