Region 8 Prison Has Employee Shortage - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Newport -- Heather Flanigan Reports

Region 8 Prison Has Employee Shortage

September 10, 2004 – Posted at 6:13 p.m. CDT

NEWPORT -- Finding a job isn't always easy, but for the Arkansas Department of Correction, finding employees seems to be a problem. With competitive benefits and wages, the prison appears to be a good place to work. But some former employees say that's not the case.

“It's a great job. I loved my job there and I hated it that I had to quit, but I just couldn't take it no more,” said former employee Matt Montgomery.

Montgomery worked for the McPherson unit in Newport for two years before he left last month. “It's a very stressful job, it's an extremely stressful job,” said Montgomery.

He says a shortage of employees left him working overtime, and he claims he wasn't getting paid for his OT.

“It's supposed to be quarterly that you get your overtime pay, in the two years that I was there, I got it one time,” said Montgomery.

Montgomery did get his overtime when he left his job, and prison officials say there's nothing wrong with that.

“We have followed all the laws and regulations of the department of labor. We pay approximately every quarter,” said Kevin Murphy, Human Resource Officer for the Department of Correction.

“They are earning overtime, and they are getting paid for the overtime. They would like it every two weeks, but we can't do that. We can't pay the overtime until we've saved it up,” said Dina Tyler of the Arkansas Department of Correction, “We save it up because we have vacant positions, and that salary isn't going to anybody. We save up that money and pay the overtime to the workers who are having to work the extra hours to cover for the vacancies.”

Working in a prison can be stressful, and the Arkansas Department of Correction admits they have had problems with recruitment and retention. Right now, there are more than 50 openings at the Grimes and McPherson units in Newport. The Department of Correction is doing better, reducing its turnover by 18 percent in the last four years.

“Many people get a different perspective of corrections than they imagine when they come in, and some people realize that when they get in the business, it's not for them,” said Murphy. Officials say the shortage of employees does not mean the prison units are unsecured.

“We have everything covered that we need to cover, but to do that, we've had to ask a lot of our employees to work overtime, and that's how the overtime issue cropped up,” said Tyler.

“I worry about officer safety on the inside. If you have an incident go on there’s not enough people to respond. That's the biggest problem that they face,” said Montgomery.

Officials say if they are able to hire and retain employees, overtime won't be an issue and security will be reinforced.

Assistant Director Larry May said, “We know that we can hire people. Hiring them, training them is one thing, retaining them is another. That's our goal is to hire, train and retain the best of the best.”

The Arkansas Department of Correction is currently accepting applications for employment. For more information about job openings, call 1-888-8ADC-JOB. Salaries start at $25,000 dollars.

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