10/27/2011 04:01 pm ET Updated Dec 27, 2011

Jean Keller, California Prison Nurse, Nets $270,000 Income Thanks To Overtime

In California, putting in the extra hours can apparently really pay off.

A California nurse working at a men's prison tripled her pay last year by working an extra 2,450 hours, Bloomberg reports. Jean Keller earned a total yearly wage of $269,810 in 2010, only a fraction of the $1.7 billion the state of California reportedly dished out last year in extra pay, including unused vacation time and union benefits.

On average, state workers are paid more than those in the private sector, making $58,340 in total pay last year, compared to an average income of $42,578 for employees working in both the public and private sectors, Bloomberg reports.

(Read the entire Bloomberg article here.)

By retirement, though, the income divide becomes less noticeable. A recent study found public sector workers had 11 to 18 percent more wealth by the age of 65 than couples in the private sector, according to the Sacramento Bee.

News of Keller's wages is just the latest evidence of California's problematic pay structure for state employees, especially those working for the prison system. LA Weekly reports that the five highest-paid government positions all work in the prison system, including the highest paid single public employee in the state last year, the head parole psychiatrist for the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation who made $838,706.

Although the title of highest paid employee may be up for debate. The Los Angeles Times reports that the highest-paid state employee last year was actually a prison surgeon who made $777,423 in 2010 not working because he got two years of back pay while appealing a termination.

At the same time that some prison employees are raking in hundreds of thousands of dollars in pay, the state continues to grapple with a massive $19 billion budget deficit and officials recently warned some 26,000 prison workers of potential layoffs, adding them to the ranks of other less fortunate California state employees.

The structural changes are also expected to reduce the prison population by 30,000 over three years, according to the Associated Press.

Likewise, in March alone, about 19,000 public school teachers were laid off.

Yet the debt problem is real. California currently has the sixth-highest debt per capita of any in the country, at $3,060.

Distress among California workers isn't limited to the public sector alone, however. About 20,000 California nurses went on strike in September to protest proposed cuts to their health care benefits.