Mountain City, Tennessee (WJHL) — 1 year later he called the shortage of prison labor a serious problemTennessee Congressman Bud Halsey, R-Kingsport, said massive pay increases are starting to affect labor shortages in places like Mountain City’s Northeast Correctional Center (NECX).
“I think we’ve seen about a 24% reduction in vacancies in the Northeast,” said Hulsey, chair of the state’s subcommittee on corrections. According to the Tennessee Department of Corrections (TDOC), the NECX had 128 correctional officer vacancies in late February, months after the pay increases went into effect, and as of late last week, he had 88. Person vacancies are declining.
“I think we’ll see improvements in the long term, and I think it’s directly related to salary increases,” Hulsey said.
On December 16 of last year, the TDOC increased the starting salary for corrections officers by 37%, from $32,500 to $44,500, or $21.39 per hour. At the time, state prisons were facing a serious shortage. NECX had 118 vacancies out of 318 security positions.
From January 1, 2021 to December 16, 2021, 108 people left or were laid off and only 48 people were hired.
“It’s been steadily declining, and the problem was also that we weren’t competitive with the states that surrounded us,” Hulsey said. rice field.”
The system-wide TDOC was short of about 1,100 security personnel a year ago, he said. Halsey said state legislators and Gov. Bill Lee’s administration funded the raise. please work
Overall, vacancies are down about 44%, which equates to adding about 500 more officers statewide, according to Halsey.
He said high vacancy rates can create many problems inside the prison gates, especially safety issues.
“Not only are many other tasks not completed when we are understaffed, If the numbers are low, the cops there are more at risk. And the fatigue level is very high when there is no one to work. “
TDOC data shows that NECX was actually losing its headcount in the months following the headcount increase. Between mid-November 2021 and his late February of this year, 48 new staff members were hired, but 56 resigned or were laid off, so the vacancy rate for security staff fell below his November figure. He increased from 37% to 40%.
However, since early March, the number of guards has increased by 30. The facility employs 127 of his people, 86 of whom have retired. The vacancy rate has dropped to 29%.
Hulsey says that’s still not enough, but he’s encouraged by the progress.
“It must be [good enough] I can’t put people to work right now, but I think the hiring rate is slowly increasing,” he said.
“I am very grateful to the people who worked and worked hard at Northeast, and I believe there is a causal relationship between the rather large pay increases and the increase in new hires. [hires]”