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Staffing vacancies in jails, prisons ‘number one focus’ of Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation officials

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — There are over 1,000 vacancies in the state Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Jeff Sandy, the Cabinet Secretary for the state Department of Homeland Security told lawmakers on Monday.

Sandy and Brad Douglas, the acting commissioner of the state Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation discussed the issues facing their departments in front of the Joint Committee on Finance and Judiciary during legislative interim meetings.

Jeff Sandy

Sandy said in January 2020, there was the least number of vacancies that corrections had seen in over 30 years with less than 500, and then the pandemic hit.

“I hate to tell you that once COVID hit, as of today we have 1,015 vacancies,” Sandy told lawmakers.

Douglas added that the vacancy total represents about 30% of the department’s correctional officer positions and an overall vacancy rate of 27% of all staff.

He said the focus remains on care, custody and control but staffing impacts everything they do.

“Our officers and non-uniform staff are working overtime. They are working in security posts even if that’s not their job to work security posts. It impacts everything we do,” Douglas said.

According to Sandy, as of this week, there are 13,793 individuals in custody and care including 4,985 in prisons and 5,052 in jails. Sandy further stated that in 2021, there were 40,500 individuals that came into the jails and were processed before ‘bond was made, charges were dropped, etc.’

Five years ago, a corrections officer made around $10 per hour, Sandy noted and it’s up to $16 per hour today. Both Sandy and Douglas agreed that’s still not enough to keep proper staffing and asked lawmakers to dive into the figures.

Sanders called current salaries for correctional officers ‘not competitive.’

“We are still losing staff to other public safety agencies in other states, counties, competing jurisdictions or we are losing staff to burnout because they are working so much overtime,” Sanders said.

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