A shortage of correctional officers is causing problems across the federal prison system — and even in some county jails.
While the issue isn’t as prevalent here in the state, one correctional facility says they still understand why the issue may exist.
“As far as staffing goes, we currently do have four openings within corrections and that’s just been within the last few months that we’ve had some people that have moved on to different jobs. Otherwise, we’ve been full staff for about the last year and a half,” Williams County Sheriff Verlan Kvande said.
But not everyone across the country is as lucky as the Williams County Correctional Center.
According to the Justice Department, nearly one-third of correctional officer jobs in the United States are vacant.
“I think on a national stage, and corrections in general, it’s a very tough job as far as law enforcement goes. In corrections it’s tough. We’re dealing with people who don’t want to be there obviously and it’s not always a positive environment so you generally only generate those positive interactions from your co-workers,” Kvande said.
Reports have also shown that the nationwide shortage is so bad that cooks, teachers, nurses and other outside workers are being asked to step in and help.
“We would have the potential to do part-time shifts as long as those individuals would be with a certified corrections officer throughout the entirety of that shift and we could operate a part-time role in that fashion,” Kvande said.
While Williams County has not had to reach that far out, one person has transferred on board to lend a hand.
Cpl. TJ Carr is nearing his second year working at the Williams County Correctional Center.
“This is a very challenging job mentally. You do have to pay attention to a lot,” Carr explained. “You’re constantly aware of that element of danger and the thought that something could happen. There’s that stress of constantly being under the gun and having different tasks you have to get done and deadlines. Like I said it can be mentally taxing.”
But Carr says the the job isn’t all bad.
“We do remind ourselves on a daily basis that people are innocent until proven guilty and the only thing separating them is the fact that they’re trying to get through some challenges at this time and go about their business,” he said.
Regardless of all of this, the need for more positive individuals helping those behind bars is still at an all-time high.
“We’re in need of good people both on patrol and in corrections more than ever and that’s nationwide. We need good people doing this job and we’re always going to need bodies in this line of work it’s critical,” Carr said.
Sheriff Kvande says they should be filling the four open spots here within the next few weeks, which he feels they will have no issue doing.