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Senator Sandra Bolden Cunningham, D-Hudson, listens to testimony during the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee’s hearing on the FY 2011 Budget bills.

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Sandra B. Cunningham and Senator Linda Greenstein establishing compensation programs for certain officers who are injured while performing official duties cleared the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee today.

S-596 will cover state corrections officers, juvenile corrections officers, juvenile detention officers, human services officers, park police and conservation officers who, in the course of performing their official duties, suffer bodily injury as the result of a riot or assault by inmates under their custody. Parole officers injured while performing their duties by someone under their supervision would also be covered.

“If these officers get hurt doing their jobs, they should only have to worry about recovering, not how the bills will be paid,” said Senator Cunningham (D-Hudson). “This legislation will help to provide some relief to these men and women by giving them the ability to apply for compensation pay so they won’t have to pay even more of a price for their injury. We are finding that too often, these correctional officers must wait weeks before receiving their temporary disability benefits, and the amount collected is often considerably less than the full salary, causing unwanted and unneeded financial stress, which is no help in those tough times. This bill will provide the comfort that things will be alright.”

Correctional Officers have one of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations, according to the United States Department of Labor. Injuries are often covered to some degree by worker’s compensation but, by law, an individual must be unable to work for seven days before being eligible for temporary benefits. This bill attempts to reduce the financial stress placed upon officers who have suffered an injury as a result of a workplace attack. The bill would establish a program to cover the shortfall caused by the delay in worker’s compensation benefits or the difference between the amount recovered through benefits and the amount the officer would have earned had the attack never occurred.

“This bill aims to make those officers injured by violent inmates financially whole by covering whatever shortfall is caused by the delay of worker’s compensation benefits, and provide them with the income they would have had, if the unfortunate attack hadn’t occurred,” said Senator Greenstein (D-Mercer/ Middlesex). “These special officers are individuals who can never let their guard down; they risk being attacked at any moment, which could lead to serious injuries.”

Under the bill, the injured officer would be entitled to receive his or her full salary until worker’s compensation payments begin. The bill would also allow the injured officer to receive supplemental payments from his or her employer in an amount that, when added to any worker’s compensation payments, would equal the net wage of the injured officer at the time of the injury. The payments would continue as long as the officer remains a corrections or parole officer and continues to receive worker’s compensation.

The bill cleared the committee 4-0 and now heads to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee for further consideration.