Bryan P. Sears//July 2, 2018
//July 2, 2018
Maryland officials are looking to a recruiter to help them hire as many as 1,000 correctional officers to work inside state prisons.
The announcement of a search for a consultant is the latest in a series of incentives and job fairs aimed at filling vacancies within the system.
“From my first day in office three years ago, I made hiring qualified correctional officers a top priority,” Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services Secretary Stephen T. Moyer said in a statement. “We will not take our foot off the gas pedal and compromise the safety of the dedicated and talented men and women who do one of the hardest jobs in law enforcement.”
The department estimates it will spend as much as $50,000 on the new recruiter, which is expected to be hired by August.
Moyer started looking for ways to reduce vacancies three years ago.
Since being named to oversee the department under Gov. Larry Hogan, Moyer has held more than 300 hiring events. The department is also planning more than two dozen testing opportunities on the Eastern Shore.
In January, Hogan authorized the use of financial incentives, including $500 referral bonuses, $5,000 for new recruits, and $3,000 retention bonuses.
Moyer and others have acknowledged in recent years a difficulty in hiring qualified officers — driven in many cases by standards put in place following high-profile federal investigations and indictments in recent years.
State prison officials say Maryland’s reduced prison populations have allowed them to maintain a 4-to-1 prisoner to correctional officer ratio. In the past, officials have pointed to difficulties nationally in recruiting and retaining prison guards.
Maryland finds itself with a 14 percent vacancy rate in the department — a figure state corrections officials said was lower than other jurisdictions.
Legislators have criticized spending on overtime related to the shortage. The state spends about $70 million in overtime on prison staffing. Lawmakers, both Democrats and Republicans, say the overtime payments could be used for more officers and to increase salaries.
Reuters News reported in April that while there are no national statistics on such vacancies a number of individual states, including North and South Carolina, Oklahoma, Delaware and Arkansas, have reported double-digit vacancy rates. Of those, Oklahoma was the highest at 31 percent.
A 2017 Department of Legislative Services found that 576 of the 847 vacancies within the department were unfilled corrections officer positions. More than 40 percent of the total open positions were vacant for at least a year, according to the report.
The reliance on overtime to cover for the vacancies has created fears of job burnout and concerns about safety, union officials say.
Patrick Moran, president of AFSCME Maryland Council 3 which represents corrections officers, was not available for comment on the administration’s latest effort.