EDDYVILLE — Gov. Matt Bevin and a team of legislators and other political officials gave a boost Tuesday to the morale of the men and women who work at the Kentucky State Penitentiary in Eddyville.
The trip was Bevin’s first to the “castle on the Cumberland.” It came on the heels of his budget address, when he vowed to include $4.5 million in retention raises for correctional workers at state prisons.
He told the group who gathered in the prison’s chapel after a tour of the massive facility that he stands by those promises and will work to keep them in the budget as legislators review it over the next few weeks.
He also addressed the high turnover rate in corrections officers, currently reported at 67 percent statewide. He expects higher salaries will help lower that rate to benefit everybody.
“We want to create an environment where the morale is as high as possible,” Bevin said. “One of the biggest gifts we give people is recognition of the fact that the job that they do is an important job. That dignity that comes from being respected, being recognized, being appreciated does a tremendous amount for people’s morale, and when morale is high, the work environment is safer, it’s better.”
Department of Corrections Commissioner LaDonna Thompson said she and the staff at the Eddyville facility were happy to host Bevin and his crew for Tuesday’s tour.
“We really appreciated the opportunity to meet the governor. When does that ever happen, right?” Thompson said. “It was very good to be able to see him, shake his hand and hear him ask (the staff members) ‘What do you do?’ and ‘What can we do to help you?’”
John Tilley, secretary of the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet, echoed Bevin’s sentiments on Tuesday and vowed to move toward the same budget goals.
Bevin added that he wants to stay in contact with the staff members and officials he met Tuesday to help “protect those who protect us” as much as possible.
“I want to do what I can do, I want our administration to do what they can do to help you do the job that every day you are dedicated to doing,” he said. “It’s a two-way street. We can help, but we need your help to tell us what we need to know.”