Staffing Challenges Continue for Department of Corrections
(Concord, NH) At the New Hampshire State Prison for Men in Concord, there are nearly 70 fewer funded Corrections Officers positions than there were 10 years ago. During the same time, the inmate population has grown by approximately10 percent. A 2012 Performance Audit by the Legislative Budget Assistant recommended that the Concord prison needed a minimum of 277 officers to maintain critical operations. There are only 200 Corrections Officers on staff at the Concord Prison. The Fiscal Year 2015 budget may not provide enough funding to hire 20 more officers, which is still far below the recommendation of the 2012 audit.
Warden Richard M. Gerry said, “Even if we fill all twenty positions it does not alleviate the shortages. We still have to backfill positions for officers who are out of the workplace because they are attending mandatory training, on temporary active military duty, out on medical or other leave, or on scheduled days off.”
Warden Gerry stressed, “Staff have done a tremendous job working a significant amount of hours in order to meet the safety and security requirements of this facility.”
In Fiscal Year 2014, the Department’s overtime budget was approximately $3.4-million but the Department spent nearly twice that, $7-million dollars to maintain critical staffing levels. The current fiscal year overtime budget is still $3.4-million but the Department projects it will surpass that amount by $5 million to a total of $8.5 million before the fiscal year ends in June 2015.
All Corrections Officers are required to successfully complete the nine-week pre-service Corrections Academy and then complete a four week on the job training before they can be certified by New Hampshire Police Standards and Training Council and assigned a duty post at any of the Department’s prisons.
Corrections Human Resource Administrator Lisa Currier said, “It is extremely important that all qualified Corrections Officer candidates meet our stringent entrance requirements and are well trained so they are better prepared to work in a correctional environment. Much is required of them each and every day to carry out our mission by providing a safe, secure, and humane correctional system.”
In early 2014 Warden Joanne Fortier of the New Hampshire State Prison for Women in Goffstown offered to lead a department-wide recruitment effort using existing staff resources. These 27 dedicated men and women have represented the department at over 30 speaking engagements and job fairs this year. They have modernized the recruitment display, the brochure and created a multimedia presentation. They have implemented a mentorship program for applicants and a college internship program for students exploring a career in Corrections.
Warden Fortier stated “The team members are experienced Corrections professionals. They understand the complexities and demands of working in a correctional environment and enthusiastically share their profession with potential applicants. Their efforts, on many fronts, are channeling an increase in qualified applicants into the hiring process.”
The Department employs a single recruitment officer and these volunteers’ efforts have allowed her to focus on scheduling testing appointments, processing applications, and providing bi-weekly new employee orientation classes.
Since August these volunteers have attended 10 job fairs including two that were sponsored jointly by the Teamsters Local 633, which were specifically focused on hiring Corrections Officers.
In September, sixteen newly hired officers met the entrance requirements for the current Corrections Academy, which will conclude on November 14, 2014. The Department is on pace to hire potentially 12 new officers this October, with the next Corrections Academy scheduled for January 2015.
The Department has also stepped up its presence on social media by placing recruitment notices and links to job listings on its official Facebook (NH-Department-of-Corrections), Twitter (@NHDOC), and YouTube (NH Department of Corrections) pages.
Warden Gerry said, “This staffing shortage is not going to be resolved overnight because the Department has weathered many years of eliminated positions and hiring freezes due to budget limitations. But these recruitment efforts are important steps at improving our current situation.”
Individuals interested in pursuing a Corrections career should visit the Department’s website at www.nh.gov/nhdoc/jobs or call the Department’s recruitment office at 603-271-5645.