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How to handle the understaffing crisis in corrections

Correctional officers are having to rack up hundreds of mandatory overtime hours, which can threaten both CO and inmate safety

Corrections1 columnist Gary York reports from the Corrections USA conference in Las Vegas. In this video, he interviews Keith Hellwig, a retired captain from the Wisconsin Corrections Department and author of “No Place Like Home” and “Morning Will Come.”

Gary and Keith discuss how understaffing in correctional facilities is impacting the safety of correctional officers and security of facilities.

“It affects us adversely,” notes Hellwig. “Officers are putting in a tremendous amount of hours. I know officers who in addition to their regular 2,000 hours a year have put in 1,500 hours of overtime. A lot of this is not voluntary. It undermines staff morale and safety. The people who are there for that many hours are trying to do their jobs, but it is hard to be diligent. There comes a point where you hit that wall and then you are not as aware of your situation around you and things are going to happen.”

Share your experiences about staff shortages in the comments below.

Gary York, author of “Corruption Behind Bars” and “Inside The Inner Circle,” served in the United States Army from 1978 to 1987 and was honorably discharged at the rank of Staff Sergeant from the Military Police Corps. U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Gary York completed the 7th Army Non-Commissioned Officers Leadership Academy with a 96.6% in the Train to Train method of instruction. Gary received the Army Commendation Medal and Soldier of the Quarter Award while serving. Gary was a Military Police shift supervisor for five years.

Gary then began a career with the Department of Corrections as a correctional officer. Gary was promoted to probation officer, senior probation officer and senior prison inspector where for the next 12 years he conducted criminal, civil and administrative investigations in many state prisons. Gary was also assigned to the Inspector General Drug Interdiction Team conducting searches of staff and visitors entering the prisons for contraband during weekend prison visitation. Gary also received the Correctional Probation Officer Leadership Award for the Region V, Tampa, Florida, Correctional Probation and he won the Outstanding Merit Award for leadership in the Region V Correctional Officer awards Tampa, Florida.