By Nathan Baker
Local sheriffs are searching for ways to make the job more enticing for prospective corrections officers to stop the revolving doors of employee turnover in their departments.
County law enforcement leaders in Carter, Unicoi and Johnson counties all cited budget constraints that keep them from offering competitive wages to the guards employed in local jails and drive personnel to seek higher-paying jobs elsewhere.
Johnson County Sheriff Mike Reece said the $8.25 per hour paid to new jailers in his small facility is no match for the state wages and benefits offered at the nearby prison.
“We get them hired, we get them trained and then they go right down to Northeast [Correctional Complex] and they’re gone,” he said. “It’s almost a constant cycle of hiring people just to keep the positions filled.”
In Carter County, Sheriff Chris Mathes said the larger jail, which opened last year, put an increased demand on staffing.
“Since it opened, we’ve kept anywhere from 10 to 15 job openings posted,” Mathes said. “By the time we fill six or eight of our open positions, we lose six or eight more people and have to start looking to fill those positions.”