CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The director of recruiting for the state Division of Corrections says he can’t hire new employees to help fill the correctional officer shortage without the help of state lawmakers.

“Make this division a priority,” Joseph Tyree told members of the Legislative Oversight Committee on Regional Jail and Correctional Facility Authority.

The committee met Sunday during interim meetings at the state Capitol.

Tyree told lawmakers employees need a pay raise. He said there’s no sense in recruiting people if the state isn’t willing to compensate them. He said correctional officers don’t get paid enough compared to other states, which is why a lot of them end up leaving West Virginia.

Officers can make decent money in West Virginia, but only if they work long hours, Tyree said.

“Sure, if you look at the numbers we have individuals making a good living, but how are they making it? Overtime. Overtime. Overtime,” Tyree said.

Correctional officer staffing is at about a 22 percent vacancy rate, which means hundreds of positions are open across the state. Tyree said officers have to work overtime because of that.

“We’re at a point in our division to where it’s dangerous,” he said. “We’re asking people to work 16 (hours) in a row. We know that once you work past 12 hours, your attention, your ability to do those things fall off.”

The minimum salary for a corrections officer is around $22,000 annually. Tyree requested implementing across the board pay raises starting at a minimum salary of $31,000.

“We don’t have to pay that much, but we do have to pay the people that work for us a livable wage to wear he doesn’t have to kill himself to make a living,” he said.

Lawmakers could consider the pay increases during next year’s 60-day legislative session.

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