PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The state paid its prison guards $1.5 million more in overtime than planned because of a hiring freeze prompted by a federal lawsuit over how correctional officers are hired, according to its financial statements.

The state’s auditor general found a deficit in the Department of Corrections budget for fiscal 2014. The state’s financial statements attributed it primarily to overtime expenses because of staffing shortages in the correctional officer ranks.

The financial statements, included in an audit released this month, notes that the shortages are the result of the department delaying a new training class because of a lawsuit filed last year by the U.S. Department of Justice. The Department of Justice says in its lawsuit that the state’s written and video exams have disproportionately screened out African-American and Hispanic applicants to correctional officer jobs since 2000.

Staffing shortages are a recurring problem for the department, but overtime costs had been dropping.

The department says it paid $18.3 million for overtime in 2014, which is down from $19.1 million in 2013, $20.7 million in 2012, $23.7 million in 2011 and $25.2 million in 2010.

The department estimates that the fiscal 2015 overtime costs will be about $1.5 million higher than in 2014.

Director A.T. Wall declined to be interviewed because of the pending litigation, a department spokeswoman said.

Kenneth Rivard, an officer in the correctional officers’ union, said the department has more correctional officers now than it used to, and paying overtime is cheaper than paying full salaries and benefits for new officers.

“There’s not a lot of forced overtime like there used to be,” said Rivard, of the Rhode Island Brotherhood of Correctional Officers. “It’s really not a burden at this point.” On average, the officers cumulatively work 7,500 hours of overtime per week, and the attrition rate is three people per month, the department said.