Florida’s prisons hope pay boost will help fill hundreds of vacancies

Florida DOC faces staffing shortages
Published: Aug. 2, 2022 at 5:46 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 2, 2022 at 6:49 PM EDT

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - Florida’s prisons, like almost everywhere else, are feeling the pinch of a labor shortage.

The Department of Corrections is now boosting pay to correctional officers and offering other incentives, in hopes of filling their ranks.

The state legislature approved the pay raise earlier this year, after the pandemic era burnout left major gaps in facilities across the state.

“Being a correctional officer is a very noble profession,” Wakulla Correctional Institution Warden Paul Allen said.

Allen hopes calls to service can spark a wave of new recruits at WCI, which has plenty of open jobs they are desperate to fill. The workers there are working mandated overtime to keep operations going.

“It puts a burden on our staff and puts a lot of stress on them and their families because they’re asked to work extended shifts,” Allen said.

He said WCI has roughly 270 vacancies, with a current staff of about 540.

“We’ve closed some of our dormitories and we’ve closed the work camp, so that basically offsets the vacant positions,” Allen said.

A recently built sign off Woodville Highway now represents what recruiters believe is a game changer, announcing that correctional officers start at 20 dollars an hour, with a minimum salary bump of close to $8,000 in just one year.

“That $20 an hour is jumping off the page,” Recruitment Officer Kani Johnson said.

Johnson is a recruitment officer, currently touring Big Bend facing the task of filling hundreds of jobs.

“You have the sense of urgency to hit the ground running and to get again that initial contact and maintaining that communication,” Johnson said.

Like other state agencies, FDC touts its health benefits and the same retirement plan as other law enforcement officers.

Allen believes the message is slowly making a difference.

“I’m very convinced this will be improved in the short term, in the last six weeks we’ve hired 25 officers. I see the light at the end of the tunnel per say,” Allen said.

The Department of Corrections estimates other facilities in our are have a 10% or greater vacancy rate.

If you are interested in learning more about the job openings, you can go here.

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