White River Juvenile Detention Center runs into trouble finding - KAIT-Jonesboro, AR-News, weather, sports

White River Juvenile Detention Center runs into trouble finding guards

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BATESVILLE, AR (KAIT) – Four correctional officers quit within a week at a juvenile detention center, sending the facility scrambling to fill the openings.

Word has spread quickly since the ‘help wanted' sign went up, and that's helped drive up the amount of applications to a record number.

The White River Regional Juvenile Detention Center in Batesville announced this week that it desperately needed four new correctional officers. By week's end, two have already been hired, and now the facility has to comb through about 40 applications to find the other two.

The juvenile detention center currently houses 45 juveniles, ages five to 21. Administrators say the overwhelming majority face drug-related charges, but there's another problem plaguing the facility. It's become harder and harder hiring and then retaining correctional officers.

"A lot of them left due to better opportunities," Independence County Judge Robert Griffin said. "We've had some businesses increase employment here – some of course just the general stress of dealing with the juveniles."

 Griffin says being down four correctional officers has affected operations in two ways.

"Either you have people that are working extending hours, or you borrow from other correctional facilities in order to have sufficient staff," he said.

The job only requires a high school diploma, a GED and a clean criminal background check; however, administrators say not everyone is cut out for the job.

The officers sometimes have to deal with violence. Several months ago, two juveniles stabbed three guards with make-shift knives during an attempted escape. That incident has not scared away the more than 30 people that have applied this week alone.

"I feel like that in the next week or two, hopefully we'll have enough applicants she [Administrator Peggy Kendrick] can find the right people for the right place," Griffin said.

Griffin says the county's retirement plan and benefits package should attract applicants, too. He says the county's law enforcement committee is also considering raising hourly wages for part-time and full-time officers to help retain employees. Part-time employees currently make $8.32 an hour, while full-time officers earn $9.69 an hour.

To inquire about the job openings at the White River Regional Juvenile Detention Center, call 870-612-6814.

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