AUGUST 1, 2005 - Posted at 7:37 a.m. CDT
NEWPORT, AR - Some state prison guards aren't happy with the Legislature's attempt to deal with an exodus of guards by giving those at higher-security prisons bigger raises.
Some at the McPherson Unit in Newport, the state's only women's prison, complained to Governor Huckabee in a letter and to prison warden John Maples, who also supervises the adjoining men's Grimes Unit.
Maples says McPherson's 99 officers haven't called in sick more than usual or slacked off in their performance and have acted professionally. But he says a sizable number are not happy with increases given guards at the Grimes Unit and not the McPherson Unit.
The state prisons are losing correctional officers at the rate of about 959 per year, with some of the highest turnover rates occuring at high-security units, where the risk is violence is more prevalent. Systemwide, almost 40 percent of prison guards left their jobs this year.
The salary increases that went into effect this month for the East Arkansas, Varner, Varner Supermax, Cummins and Grimes units seek to slow the exodus.