Wisconsin Prisons Still Struggle With Staff, And There Is No End In Sight | Crime and courts


MADISON – Almost a quarter of jobs in the state’s correctional services department go unfilled, agency data shows.

Wisconsin Public Radio reported As of last week, around 1,100 jobs remain open, and maximum security facilities at Portage and Waupun are operating with only half their staff. Officials were forced to close a cell room in Waupun last year and have now had to move around two dozen guards each pay period to Waupun from other facilities to handle the workload.






Wanggaard


“We have just passed a law to allow the Department of Corrections to advertise on billboards that they need people to serve as guards in the prison system, ”State Senator Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, said earlier this month at a panel hosted by Racine Area Manufacturers and Commerce at the DeKoven Center at the start of the month.

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This legislation was not fully adopted as Wanggaard said, but was in committee, having been officially discussed for the last time on December 7th. It was proposed by a bipartisan group of lawmakers, including Wanggaard.

Wanggaard said Waupun has a job vacancy rate of 49%.

A survey of 1,200 employees and 400 executives found that 4 out of 5 people support their work by hiring people with criminal records. Many states in the United States have laws preventing employers from asking questions about a person’s previous convictions. however, 83% of employees revealed that their job application had questions about their criminal record. 1 in 3 said they would support their work by hiring someone who has already been convicted, regardless of the convictions. 47% admitted that they would feel uncomfortable working with someone who has been convicted of a violent crime. 75% of employees believe that their work avoids hiring people with a criminal record. however, 70% of executives say they have inclusion policies in place to give those who have already been convicted a “fair chance”.



Inmates say they spend longer hours locked in their cells because the facilities are understaffed to watch them when they are released. Corrections spokesperson John Beard said the time inmates spend outside their cells varies depending on the programs they participate in, but he acknowledged that recess time at Portage has been canceled. occasionally due to understaffing.






Kevin Carr, secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Corrections

Carr


Corrections Secretary Kevin Carr said low wages and fears of contracting COVID-19 are preventing people from applying for positions.

Lawmakers approved raising guards’ wages from $ 16.65 to $ 19.03 an hour in the last two-year state budget in hopes of filling vacant positions. They are also considering a bill that would raise the minimum wage by 50 cents an hour in addition to a 2% annual wage increase or raise all rates of pay by $ 5 an hour, although this option would require lawmakers to approve additional funding.

Prisons have faced similar problems.

Compensation for prison guards and other essential positions was increased by Racine County in August – with increases ranging from an additional $ 2.93 to $ 7.83 per hour depending on the position. This change, according to what Racine County Director Jonathan Delagrave told WPR in a December 21 report, immediately alleviated the prison shortage.

This followed the declaration of the prison which had recorded a staff turnover of 112% between 2019 and the summer of 2020.


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