5 changes COs want to see in their facilities in 2018
We asked our members what they would like see change in their facilities in the coming year
By Javier Navarro, C1 Editorial Assistant
Officer recognition, boosting staff numbers and increased pay are some of the things that dominated the conversation when we asked our readers what changes they want to see in their facilities in 2018.
Take a look at the top five changes correctional officers would like to see and sound off on what you’d like to see in the comments section.
1. MORE SUPPORT AND RECOGNITION FROM correctional facility MANAGEMENT
Working as a corrections officer is a difficult and seemingly underappreciated job. An already challenging profession can be even more difficult when officers feel that their leadership team doesn’t appreciate them enough. Officers said that they would like their voices to be heard instead of being ignored.
“It would be great if administrators would listen to the officers. Our concerns should be a high priority. Support when needed and counseled when necessary,” Dennis Clary said.
The more difficult aspects of the job can hurt morale. But some officers said that even a simple, small gesture could go a long way to making employees feel welcomed and appreciated at work.
“Start bringing staff morale up. A simple hello from admin would be a good start,” Michael Miller said.
2. FOCUS ON correctional OFFICER SAFETY
This year saw several tragic events that left several corrections officers killed. In February, a riot in Delaware took the life of CO Steven Floyd, while a prison escape attempt in North Carolina in October ended with four prison employees dead, including two COs.
For many officers, these events are prime examples of why facilities need to emphasize security and safety for corrections officers. Many of our readers suggested allowing officers to be equipped with more potentially life-saving equipment, such as TASERs, and having more than one officer watch a large number of inmates at a time.
One reader even suggested allowing only video visitation in facilities could help ensure officer safety.
“Video visits only...removing contact visits will greatly reduce the amount of drugs and contraband entering the facilities, increasing officer safety and decreasing drug availability,” Brain Stalter said.
3. INCREASED, COMPETITIVE WAGES AND BENEFITS
A great deal of corrections officers are in agreement that COs are not paid nearly enough for the nature of the work and the amount they do on a daily basis. The average salary for COs is about $43, 550, according to CorrectionalOfficerEDU. But some states such as West Virginia have a starting salary of just $22,000 for corrections officers.
Pay is one of the main factors behind the recruitment and retention crisis in facilities across the U.S. While some facilities offer overtime pay and bonuses, officers agree that pay needs to increase across the board and reflect the type of work they do.
“More money, which will bring staff. Not many people will risk their life daily for 30K a year,” Austin Metcalf wrote.
Scott Charlton suggested that incentives should be offered to those who have stayed with a facility for several years: “Increase in pay, and retention bonuses for those with 5+ years seniority. Make it worthwhile to stick around, offer decent benefits.”
Alice Kernan also weighed in: “Instead of treating raises and comparable pay as a cost, treat it as an investment. When you respect your staff and take care of them, they will take care of you without you having to make them.”
4. IMPROVED correctional officer STAFFING AND RETENTION
Many correctional facilities across the U.S. have experienced a recruiting crisis and staff shortages. After the deadly North Carolina prison escape attempt, it was discovered that the Pasquotank County Correctional Institution was short staffed at the time of the incident.
A number of COs told us that they are often forced to work incredibly long hours and watch over several hundreds of inmates on their own due to staffing shortages. Many officers agree that it’s a large problem that won’t be solved with just one simple solution.
States have been constantly on the lookout for solutions and ways to properly staff their facilities.The state of South Carolina has even looked into recruiting people from Puerto Rico.
Lupe Rivas said that in addition to recruiting, facilities should also focus on retaining their employees: “To put the same effort in retention of staff as we do recruitment. You can replace the people all day but the experience and knowledge is irreplaceable and the turnover rates are the fault of upper management. Can't blame the staff for everything that's wrong and not hold offenders accountable.”
5. HOLDING INMATES ACCOUNTABLE
A number of COs feel that inmates receive preferential treatment by upper management. Many officers have gotten the sense that inmates get away with too much and their needs come before the officers’.
Some of our readers suggested that people who create policies and lead should spend a day in their shoes to see what it’s like to work around inmates each day. Some feel this will give upper management better perspective when it comes to handling inmate issues.