White River Juvenile Detention Center runs into trouble finding guards

BATESVILLE, AR (KAIT) – Four correctional officers quitwithin a week at a juvenile detention center, sending the facility scramblingto fill the openings.

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

The White River Regional Juvenile Detention Center inBatesville announced this week that it desperately needed four new correctionalofficers. By week's end, two have already been hired, and now the facility hasto 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-relatedcharges, but there's another problem plaguing the facility. It's become harderand 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 businessesincrease employment here – some of course just the general stress of dealingwith the juveniles."

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

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

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

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

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

Griffin says the county's retirement plan and benefitspackage should attract applicants, too. He says the county's law enforcement committeeis also considering raising hourly wages for part-time and full-time officersto 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 RiverRegional Juvenile Detention Center, call 870-612-6814.

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