Florida's prison jobs go unfilled

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Capitol News Service) -- Rick Scott is the jobs Governor, claiming more than 1.2 million new jobs since taking office, but as many as 2,500 jobs remain open in one state agency with no takers.

The Department of Corrections has held job fairs. There are “now hiring” signs out side every prison, and on many of the departments vehicles.

Still the agency has a vacancy rate of ten percent, forcing officers to work long hours. The problem, a $29,000 starting salary.

“Right now they are working twelve hour shifts plus another four. We are working them to death because of the vacancy rate," Corrections Secretary Julie Jones says. "I don’t have time to train them.”

It’s not just vacancies, but sky-high turnover as well. Jones told lawmakers the turnover rate was just under 30 percent this year. She is asking for higher pay and signing bonuses. Making them reality could be a problem.

Aaron Bean (R- Jacksonville) is the Prison Budget Chairman.

“Going from 30 to 33 leaves a lot to be desired, but its a step in the right direction," State Rep. Bean says.

Because of the high turnover rate, the most experienced officers in some prisons have just two years experience.

The inexperience may have lead to at least six major disturbances over conditions this past year.

“We have a lot of people who can calm down an inmate, but we don't have enough of them, and we don't have them everywhere we should have them.”

Prisons were shortchanged during the recession and lawmakers cut taxes during the recovery.

Now they say there is not enough to make ends meet, which will leave the Department of Corrections at the bottom of the heap again

Many officers leave the department for greener pastures and more money for local police and sheriff’s offices where starting salaries are often $40,000 or more.

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