PHOENIX — The Arizona Department of Corrections director says vacancy rates for correctional officers have increased across the state.
Director Charles Ryan warned Republican Gov. Doug Ducey in a retirement letter that vacancy rates at Arizona’s prisons have increased from 1.7% to 19% since 2012, the Arizona Capitol Times reported Monday.
“This is a crisis,” Ryan said. The vacancy rate of correctional officers has reached as high as 37% at a state prison in Florence.
The staffing levels are “unacceptable,” because of a lack of competitive compensation, Ryan said.
The prison system continues to lose employees to multiple competitors, including the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, U.S. Border Patrol and Federal Bureau of Prisons, he said.
Despite a recent 10% salary increase, 1,713 positions are estimated to be vacant by July 2021 if another increase isn’t funded, Ryan said.
There is also a need to increase non-correctional officer pay, because it “impedes ADC’s ability to recruit highly qualified non-security applicants and retain top performers,” he said.
Problems at the state’s prisons have been worsened by a growing number of inmates, according to Ryan’s letter. The prison population increased to more than 42,000 during his tenure as director.
Difficulties under Ryan’s tenure include infrastructure problems and failure to fulfill improvements in inmate care, the newspaper reported.
Ryan placed some of the blame on issues dating to 2006, when the department reduced staffing by more than 550 correctional officers’ positions.
Ryan’s last day as director is Friday.
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