More than 1.3 million people are incarcerated in U.S. prisons, and keeping those prisons running requires tens of thousands of corrections officers. NPR reports that some states are facing major staffing shortages. Much of this shortfall is because of the strong economy, but recruiters also are struggling with the job’s cultural stigma. Cadets are in high demand in Wyoming and across the U.S. Wyoming is 20 percent short of its correctional staff, and Michigan, Kansas, Texas, and other states face similar shortfalls.
Some states are offering recruitment and retention bonuses, but for now, every shift has to be covered. That has officers working a lot of overtime; in Kansas, Oklahoma, and other states with severe shortages, overtime is mandatory. Leann Bertsch of the Association of State Correctional Administrators says that’s a problem. “They’re not meant to not have days off, they’re not meant to work extraordinarily long shifts,” she says. “That creates dangerous situations.”