CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The soon-to-be secretary for the state Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety has an idea about how to fill the number of correctional officer vacancies in the state’s prisons and regional jails.

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Former Wood County Sheriff Jeff Sandy will lead the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety.

Jeff Sandy said other states have been successful with programs that make the job of correctional officer an entry level job for those who want to be law enforcement officers.

“You’d be treating a correction officer as a steppingstone position for many other law enforcement positions here in West Virginia such as Division of Natural Resources, state police,” Sandy said.

Sandy, a former sheriff in Wood County, said the sheriff in Washington County, Ohio, has had great success with a similar employment plan.

“Every deputy that is on the road today started his career in his (Washington County) corrections facility,” Sandy said.

The state Division of Corrections consistently has openings for correctional officers. Many are forced now to work overtime to cover the shifts. The pay is some of the lowest in the state. Sandy said it’s not bad to think outside the box to address the need. He said more people may be interested in the jobs if there’s a chance to advance.

“You work hard. You impress your supervisors. You get good evaluations and as a result you can be recommended for other positions. That’s how I’ve always looked at law enforcement,” Sandy said.

Sandy will take over D-MAPS when Governor-elect Jim Justice is sworn-in Jan. 16.

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