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18-year-olds can now serve as COs in Fla.

Starting July 1, the minimum hiring age will be lowered from 19 to 18


Florida State Prison at sunset in Raiford, Fla. Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012.

AP Photo/Phil Sears

By Skyler Swisher
Sun Sentinel

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Floridians fresh out of high school will now be able to work as correctional officers in prisons and jails, a move aimed at alleviating a shortage of applicants.

Starting July 1, the minimum hiring age will be lowered from 19 to 18.

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the change into law last week, saying in a prepared statement that Florida is “opening more doors for young women and men to begin an honorable public safety career.”

A legislative analysis found that lowering the age would allow the state to recruit high school seniors to address staffing shortages.

In a statement, Corrections Secretary Mark Inch said he thinks 18-year-olds are up to the task.

“I’ve spent my military career training and leading remarkable 18-year-old men and women, and I am confident in our department’s ability to equip these new recruits with the training and leadership they need,” he said.

The average salary for a certified corrections officer is about $33,500 a year, according to the Florida Department of Corrections. Officers in Broward, Palm Beach, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties are eligible for a $2,500-a-year boost because of the increased cost of living.

A 2015 state study found Florida lags behind other states in pay. For the top 10 largest correctional systems in the country, Florida finished No. 9 with only Georgia paying less.

Twenty-three other states allow correctional officers to be hired at 18, according to the Department of Corrections.

©2019 the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)