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Local jails facing staffing shortages

Published: Oct. 7, 2021 at 7:02 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - Across the Chippewa Valley, sheriff’s departments said they’re experiencing staff shortages in their jails.

Officials in both the Eau Claire and Chippewa Counties said they have openings in their jails.

Eau Claire County Jail Administrator Capt. Dave Riewestahl said only 57 of 63 corrections officers openings are filled.

“We’re always in a state of constant recruitment,” he said.

Riewestahl said the pandemic has taken its toll on his staff.

“When COVID took off, we didn’t have the turnover,” he said. “Now that we’ve going through COVID for the last year and a half or so, people are looking for jobs outside of the world of corrections.”

Riewestahl said the vacancies don’t pose a risk to public safety. They do make life harder for those working inside the jail.

“When we have that vacancy, it spreads that workload back out to those that are still here,” he said. “So what that means is we may have to force somebody to come into work on their day off and work four hours and to fill that vacancy. We’re not like a traditional office where if I call in sick, the work will just pile up.”

Chippewa County Sheriff James Kowalczyk said his jail has two openings. Currently, the facility has 26 jailers.

“The jailers are confined to the jail, are involved in the booking process, they’re involved in security of the jail, a number of different issues on a daily basis,” he said.

Though both facilities have openings, Riewestahl and Kowalczyk said it takes a special kind of person to work the jail.

“The jail is a very difficult place to work because of the negativity back there,” Kowalczyk. “Negativity in regards to people don’t come to jail because they’ve been good, they come to jail because they’ve been bad.”

“They have to come with integrity,” Riewestahl said. “They have to come with honesty. We can treat and we can train our staff.”

While corrections officers in Wisconsin county jails are considered civilians, both Riewestahl and Kowalczyk said working in the jail can be a foot in the law enforcement door.

“If you’re looking to get into law enforcement and if you’re looking to work the jail and the jail only, we have openings,” Kowalczyk said. “And again it may even lead to different divisions and different department’s throughout the Sheriff’s Department.”

Both jails run on 12-hour shifts. Corrections officers work every other weekend.

The state requires corrections officers complete a 200-hour course within their first year on the job. Both jails allow an applicant to complete it after they are hired.

People interested in working for the Eau Claire County Jail should email Riewestahl for more information. People can apply on the Chippewa County website to work in its jail.

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