LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) -Here in Michigan, lawmakers are discussing legislation to allow retired officers to come back and work while receiving their retirement benefits.
The Michigan Corrections Organization says it all comes down to the pay and benefits. As other career paths offer more money and a job that doesn’t put you at risk and as lawmakers try to resolve the issue, the problem is getting worse by the day.
“There is nothing deterring them from going and finding another job that pays similar money. That doesn’t subject them to working behind prison fences and prison walls,” said Byron Osborn, President of the Michigan Corrections Organization.
“Each one of those 4 facilities has a vacancy range of between 50 and 80 officers now,” said Osborn.
And it’s going to be extremely difficult to even fill half of those openings.
Osborn says to make matters worse the workers who do show up have to pick up the extra slack.
“Officers are working double shifts multiple times per week and in many instances on back-to-back days,” said Osborn.
A new bill proposed by lawmakers in Jackson allows for retired officers to come back and work while receiving their full retirement benefits. But Osborn says they have tried that before and it doesn’t work in the long run.
“When you do 25-30 years in a prison setting if you’re able to make it that far. The likelihood of you wanting to come back into that when your retired very few people took part in it,” said Osborn.
He says if we want more people going into corrections as a career we need to make it worth their while.
“Restoration of like post-retirement benefits such as health care coverage and hybrid pensions. Things that will entice people to come to this job but now stay in the job because there is something in the end for you,” he said.
And it’s not only corrections officers feeling the effects of the shortage. So do the prisoners.
“Prisoner programming or rec activities [are] being shortened just because you don’t have the staff there you need to run those things.”
Osborn says if passed the bill will provide some support to the already exhausted workers. But if we want to solve this shortage it’s as simple as making the job stand out from the rest with better pay and more benefits.