JACKSON, Mich. — The Michigan Department of Corrections is facing a staff shortage.
There are 120 corrections officer vacancies in Jackson's prisons and a total of 800 across the state.
One reason is a retirement “boom,” the aftershock of mass hiring in the 1980s, according to Spokesperson Chris Gautz.
“We were hiring hundreds and hundreds of officers in the '80s when we were building prisons all the time, get tough on crime," he said. "There was a lot of need for a lot of prisons, so we hired a lot of people back in the '80s. Now they’re all retirees. We have a retirement boom that we’ve been experiencing for the last probably good five, six years if not longer.”
The department held a job fair at the King Center on Thursday to hire workers for the Charles Egeler Reception and Guidance Center.
“Right now at Egeler we have 46 correction officer vacancies," Gautz said. "We have one vacancy in food service. We have more than 20 LPNs and more than 20 RNs that are for just that facility. So, the facility there is in great need of corrections officers, but also nurses."
The fair was open to the public. Applicants were walked through the process of applying for food service and corrections officer positions, followed by an interview and a short physical fitness test.
It's something Charles Egeler Reception and Guidance Center Institutional Training Officer Scott Nixon hopes they can do more of.
“Some people have come in today and just said, ‘Hey, I’m interested in what is going on or what things do I have to do to get in,’" he said, "so, I would look to see these way more in the future.”
Vacancies are leading to long hours and burnout among staff members, Gautz said.
“We do know the strain that it causes and we need them to be alert on the job,” Gautz said. “Corrections officers positions can be a very dangerous job. You need to be awake and alert at all times. If you’re working 16 hours a day, and then having to come back and do several of those double shifts a week, we know the toll that could take."
Nixon said hiring more corrections officers “will actually help the mental health of our whole facility."
Gautz said corrections officers would start at $18.56 an hour with full state benefits. New hires will be paid during training academy which lasts eight weeks. Another eight weeks are spent doing on the job training.
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