The sheriff wants to lift restrictions at the Snohomish County Jail that were implemented in response to the coronavirus. (Sue Misao / The Herald) Photo taken April 9, 2020.

The sheriff wants to lift restrictions at the Snohomish County Jail that were implemented in response to the coronavirus. (Sue Misao / The Herald) Photo taken April 9, 2020.

New contract boosts Snohomish County corrections deputy pay by 18%

Negotiations lasted two years. Authorities at the Snohomish County Jail hope it helps fill staff shortages.

EVERETT — Snohomish County has agreed to a new contract with its jail deputies, completing negotiations that lasted two years.

Authorities at the Everett jail are hoping the pay hike will entice more people to become corrections deputies, as the Snohomish County Jail deals with a staffing shortage.

Currently, there are about 50 open positions for corrections deputies in the jail, with most employees working mandatory overtime, said Detention Captain David Hall.

The new contract covers 154 corrections deputies in the Snohomish County Corrections Guild, and will boost pay by 18%. It provides pay hikes of 8% in the first year, 6% in the second year, and 4% in the final year.

Medical and support staff are under a separate bargaining contract.

This year, the average daily population at the jail has been around 500 to 600 inmates, according to the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office. Before the pandemic, that number hovered around 900 people.

The contract, signed in May, went into effect July 1. Jail staff will soon be back at the bargaining table, as the agreement is mostly retroactive. It dates back to the beginning of 2022 and is set to expire at the end of 2024. Jail employees on the payroll at the time the contract was certified will receive retroactive wages.

Prior to the agreement, starting pay for a corrections officer was $62,000 to $82,000, based on experience, according to the contract. In 2023, corrections deputies will have starting salaries of $71,000 to $94,000.

The contract will put salaries in line with corrections officers in Pierce County, who also received an 18% increase, said Hall, who was on the negotiating team. Negotiators used the Pierce County contract as a blueprint because the jail is similar in size and scope.

Hall said it takes up to six months of training before a corrections deputy can begin working at the jail, so the job requires an extra level of commitment.

“There just hasn’t been a lot of interest in working in law enforcement,” Hall said.

In November, the county approved a four-year contract with the Deputy Sheriff’s Association, which has 210 members. At the time, Sheriff Adam Fortney said there were roughly 50 vacancies in the sheriff’s department. The contract covered 250 employees and the deputies received a wage increase of 19.5%.

The corrections guild is hoping to fill the vacancies in the Snohomish County Jail. The maximum corrections-deputy-to-inmate ratio in a housing unit at the jail is 1 to 79. The ratio currently sits at 1 to 64.

“We can’t let these posts go unfilled, that’s our insurance to keep people safe and monitored,” Hall said. “We have corrections deputies nearly daily coming to work and not knowing if they can go home in eight hours. Sometimes they’ll have to stay 12 or 16 hours.”

The jail provides services besides detention, such as drug rehabilitation and medical care for inmates who are detoxing.

“It’s not just simply warehousing people, it’s more involved than that,” Hall said. “With the defunding of a lot of mental health facilities, we’ve become the de facto care facility for all these various different problems.”

The sheriff’s Corrections Bureau makes up roughly 21% of Snohomish County’s budget, county spokesperson Kent Patton said.

Jonathan Tall: 425-339-3486; jonathan.tall@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @EDHJonTall.

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