Nevada Declares Critical Shortage Of Rural Prison Guards

State officials declared a critical labor shortage Tuesday for rural Nevada prison guards, a job that’s low-paying compared with other law enforcement careers, can involve harassment from inmates and means living in far-flung communities short on affordable housing.

The Nevada Board of Examiners voted Tuesday to approve the designation, which allows the state to hire back retirees without adversely affecting their public employee pensions. Officials with the Nevada Department of Corrections say there are a handful of retirees who expressed a willingness to work in the prisons again.

Labor shortages are chronic in Nevada’s most remote prisons in spite of efforts to advertise the jobs online and through social media. More than 100 of the state’s 522 rural corrections officer positions were vacant at the end of January, and the Ely State Prison has never had all positions filled at one time in the past five years, officials said.

The solution so far has been to schedule officers for overtime, but the practice can lead to burnout and aggravate turnover.

Scott Sisco of the Nevada Department of Corrections told the board higher salaries would “absolutely” help attract people to the jobs. Many are located in areas flush with higher-paying mining jobs, and an annual starting salary of about $39,000 for guards-in-training hasn’t proved attractive enough.

Board members said they’ve also noticed labor shortages in other agencies, including the Nevada Highway Patrol, where salaries start at about $48,000 a year. Gov. Brian Sandoval said troopers have been migrating toward agencies including the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, which is expanding after the “More Cops” sales tax increase kicked in and allowed more hires.

Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske said she thinks people are encouraging their family members to stay out of the law enforcement profession and are helping drive down interest in policing.

From The Associated Press via The Albany Times-Union

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