County jail staff can opt for protective status under new law

Published: Apr. 28, 2023 at 7:08 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - Governor Tony Evers signed a bipartisan bill into law earlier this month. The bill, now known as Wisconsin Act 4, gives county jailers protective status.

Eau Claire county jail captain, Travis Holbrook, said with protective status, county jailers can receive added benefits like those given to state correctional officers and other law enforcement agents.

“What this does is it allows them to retire at a younger age. And more importantly, it also allows them to have disability benefits if they were to be injured on the job. We have hopes that this bill will help us retain our current employees and then enrich the lives of future employees,” Holbrook said.

Act 4 comes after many jails have reporter concerns over short staffing. There are currently eight vacancies at the Eau Claire county jail.

“We do have some shortages that we need to account for,” Holbrook said.

The law is intended to help recruit and retain jail staff, but corrections officer, Kraid Zwiefelhofer, said he’s not entirely happy with it.

“This isn’t a career that is one that you want to be doing when you’re in your fifties and sixties. It’s a benefit that I get to potentially retire at an earlier age. But the downside is my month to month, take home pay is going to be drastically reduced because I need to pay for that benefit. So it is a little bit of a give and take,” Zwiefelhofer said.

There is no increased cost the county taxpayer when a county jailer chooses these benefits, and county jailers are able to opt-out of protective status if they do not want to assume the extra costs.

“I think for a long time, government jobs in general were seen as having a lot of really good benefits. And that was one of the things that attracted people for years and years ago. That’s changed a little bit. The private sector has made their jobs more appealing and things like that. The reality is it’s hard to make this job appealing,” Zwiefelhofer said.

The law was passed with unanimous, bi-partisan support and is supported by the Badger State Sheriff’s Association, the Wisconsin Counties Association and the Wisconsin Sheriffs and Deputy Sheriffs Association.

Act 4 will go into effect on January 1st, 2024.