State prison officials said they hope an employment fair today with some flair will help them reduce vacancies, which have climbed to nearly one of every five jobs.
The state is opening doors at the Lewis Prison Complex, south of Buckeye on state Route 85, for five hours today to give job seekers a peek into the world of corrections officers. Visitors can tour jail cells, speak with hostage negotiators and members of special weapons units, and watch some demonstrations.
The state Department of Corrections hasn’t traditionally invited people into a prison just to recruit them for a job. But state prisons director Dora Schriro said providing potential employees a direct look inside could change ideas about this line of work.
The Corrections Department is struggling with a rising number of employees leaving the agency, despite a pay raise of $1,410 that went into effect July 1. Starting state corrections officers make $26,364 a year while in the training academy, compared to a statewide average for county jails of $23,358 and about $31,700 for detention officers in Maricopa and Pinal counties. The state salary rises to $27,364 upon academy graduation.
The prison system has about 1,300 unfilled positions statewide, forcing officials to require mandatory overtime. That adds to the stress of often difficult jobs in prisons usually located in the isolated rural areas of Arizona.
The long-term answer to the employee shortage would be improving pay even further, Schriro said, but the agency will need approval from Gov. Janet Napolitano and the Legislature. In the meantime, Schriro said she intends to hold a series of job fairs at prisons, starting at Lewis, in an effort to show prisons aren’t as dangerous or depressing as they often are portrayed.
What: State prison job fair
When: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. today
Where: Lewis Prison Complex, 26700 S. State Route 85, Buckeye
What to bring: Driver’s license, birth certificate, high school or general equivalency diploma, military form DD214 if applicable
For more information: Call (602) 542-7572