Correctional Officer Shortage Seen in Prisons across the Country

With over 1.3 million people incarcerated in state prison systems across the country, keeping prisons running smoothly requires tens of thousands of correctional officers. This astronomical number has resulted in a number of states facing staffing shortages that will become increasingly difficult to overcome.

While the shortage is partially due to the struggling economy, many recruiters have found the cultural stigma associated with the job to be causing serious issues as well.

Wyoming, which has a staffing shortage of about 20 percent, is currently increasing their recruitment efforts to unheard of levels. Other states that have a similar shortage include Texas, Kansas and Michigan.

Carlos Galan, a recent recruit of Wyoming Corrections, landed his position by chance after being laid off from his food service management position. Galan always had a desire to work in criminal justice and this opportunity couldn’t have come at a better time. While this is a role he was interested in, he admits he never thought he would wind up as a correctional officer at a prison one day. This is not something that many recruiters want to hear.

A majority of recruiters are working tirelessly to reduce the stigma associated with the correctional officer position since there is far more to the job than just babysitting inmates. In fact, recent studies indicate that the increase in suicide rates among inmates can be directly attributed to a lack of manpower.

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In an attempt to fill these positions, many states have implemented an average starting wage of about $15 per hour and are offering retention and recruitment bonuses as well. Since correctional officers can choose to work overtime, the compensation packages offered to new recruits is particularly appealing.

As a result, there’s no better time than the present to pursue a corrections officer career, since there is a surplus of positions available, most of which come with additional incentives that other criminal justice careers are lacking.