An alarming number of Tennessee correctional officers who have quit in search of higher pay and better working conditions, reports The Tennessean in Nashville. This year, more than one in four of Tennessee’s 2,431 prison guards left their jobs. A new study by the American Correctional Association indicates that turnover among correctional officers has become a problem across the country. The report cited a 2001 survey of 45 state prison systems, which found that Tennessee’s turnover rate was higher than all but three states’.
The high turnover is raising concerns about everything from soaring overtime and recruiting costs, to the impact that inexperienced guards are having on overall security and safety in the state’s 15 prisons. The problem has become enough of a concern that state Correction Commissioner Quenton White is creating a task force aimed at reversing the exodus. Turnover has been particularly heavy at the state’s three privately run prisons and at those near big cities such as Nashville. “In the urban environments, you’ve got people who have options, as far as jobs are concerned,” White said. Some state facilities have seen overtime double or triple from a year ago, according to internal reports obtained by The Tennessean. At the Tennessee Prison for Women in Nashville, $200,000 was budgeted for overtime between July 1 of this year and June 30, 2005. By October, the facility had spent more than $316,800.