State prisons and county jails face staffing shortages

Published: Nov. 16, 2023 at 4:27 PM CST
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - Wisconsin is seeing a lack of jailers in county jails and prisons across the state.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Corrections, the state’s prisons are dealing with a 32% staff vacancy rate. Security services captain of the Eau Claire County Jail, Travis Holbrook, said that trend is also being seen at the local level.

“We’re budgeted in the 2023 year for 63 correctional officer positions and we currently are 15 short,” Holbrook said.

Holbrook said the staffing shortage is nothing new.

“That has been the trend the last few years industry wide,” Holbrook said.

With over 200 inmates in-house daily at the Eau Claire County Jail, corrections officers are forced to take on extra duties.

“Working different areas, working short staffed at times, potentially having to come in on days off, working a lot of overtime,” Officer Cory Bergevin said.

Holbrook said working in the jail can be a mentally taxing job, which is why it’s hard to find and keep staff on hand.

“Wage packages that that will be introduced in 2024 to hopefully retain some people that are already here and lure more people in. We have a hard time competing with the private sector as far as pay goes and benefits,” Holbrook said.

In an effort to recruit and retain jail staff, county jailers were given protective status under state law. The law will go into effect on January 1st 2024.

“It’s not as appealing as we were hoping it would be for our staff, but it is still a perk or a benefit. It just will cost them more on the on the payroll side of things for them to be enrolled in that protective status,” Holbrook said.

Holbrook said there are currently 13 candidates in various stages of the hiring process, but they are still looking for more applicants. People interested in working for the Eau Claire County Jail should email Holbrook for more information.