Oklahoma’s Department of Corrections says one of its biggest challenges is recruiting and retaining employees.
During an interim study Wednesday, Prison Director Joe Allbaugh told lawmakers turnover for the agency is roughly 28 percent. Correctional officers in particular, Allbaugh said, are even harder to retain. Turnover for those positions is approaching 40 percent.
He blamed the high-stress nature of the job combined with low-pay and long hours and said many cadets have a false idea of what being a prison officer entails.
“It’s very difficult to train young men and young women to go behind the walls because they're thinking "X" and it turns out to be "Y." We lose a lot of newbies right off the bat,” he said.
Allbaugh said he felt the D-O-C was headed in the right direction, but acknowledged the department needs proper funding to continue the momentum.
Rep. John Bennett, R—Salisaw, called the interim study. He said he wanted to see across-the-board pay raises for Department of Corrections employees.
“Some of them are even on food stamps and welfare,” Bennett said. “That is absolutely ridiculous for the job they have on their shoulders, the job that they have to keep those bad people behind bars that we've sent there.”
The starting salary for correctional officers employed by the state is just over $22,000 per year. The Board of Corrections Tuesday approved a one-time stipend of $1,750 for every employee who has been with the department for more than six months.