Missouri has created special mobile units of correctional officers to help fight staffing shortages within the state’s 19 prisons.
Travis Terry, the director of the Division of Adult Institutions with the Missouri Department of Corrections, said the officers are put up in a hotel, provided transportation or mileage, and meals.
“We have certain pockets in the state of Missouri where institutions were really struggling staying staffed. And then we have these other pockets across the state where, for whatever reason, it seems like we could keep institutions fully staffed or at least close to it. So, as we began to look at that, we started thinking about well, why not pull some folks from one institution and send them to another,” he said.
They might work at one prison one week and another prison the next week.
“It really is a struggle when you’re an institution that is down maybe 100 or even more staff, it’s really tough to keep that morale where it needs to be to provide the services that we’re looking for when it comes to rehabilitating the population. When you’re able to better staff a prison, you’ve got more eyes in places where they need to be and you’ve got folks that aren’t tired and aren’t overworked and all that equates to a safer environment – not just for our staff but for the population we serve,” said Terry.
Depending on the institution, the officers within these special units have a Monday through Friday work schedule or they work seven consecutive days and then are off for seven days.
“So the reason why those schedules are enticing is because we don’t really have those types of schedules inside of our institutions,” he said. “A majority of folks are working all different types of hours and shifts. And with these mobile units, they know exactly when they’re going to work and when they’re going to be home.”
Terry said the mobile unit workers also make a higher wage than the other correctional officers working in the same location each day.
“I’m not concerned about the cost of the transportation or the hotel stay or the per diem for the meals,” said Terry. “I’m concerned about the safety and security of those institutions and getting folks time off because the real expense comes when we lose a life. No, it’s not coming at a great expense to us in my eyes.”
He said the department continues to hire for these units and other prison jobs.
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