North Carolina tries to combat prison staffing shortage
ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. (WVEC) -- 13News Now is investigating how staffing levels are related to the attempted prison break at Pasquotank Correctional Institution, which left four employees dead.
At the time the inmates attacked prison employees in the sewing plant and tried to escape, there was a shortage of correctional officers at the prison.
The four lives lost in the chaos of an attempted prison break included Correctional Officers Justin Smith and Wendy Shannon, Sewing Plant Manager Veronica Darden and most recently, maintenance mechanic Geoffrey Howe.
13News Now uncovered Smith and Shannon were two of only 184 correctional officers at the Pasquotank prison in October. That number is supposed to be at 266, which means the prison was short 82 officers.
This is not a new issue -- In October of 2016, the state reports Pasquotank was short by 87 officers.
North Carolina records show dozens of current job openings for correctional officers. Officials explained these positions are a challenge to fill.
A spokesperson told 13News Now Pasquotank is one of the places where hiring can be difficult. Some consider it to be too rural and some people already in the Elizabeth City area labor pool might not want to work in corrections.
The state knows about the shortage, and the unwillingness to be a correctional officer, so in the past year officials have increased their hiring efforts.
Now, there are eight specialty coaches at the public safety regional employment offices throughout the state. There is a focus on recruitment. In fact, each prison will host three job fairs a year to remind people of the major employer right in their community.
The recruitment events focus on community colleges, military bases and neighboring states.
Some of the coaches also focus on retaining corrections officers, as the Department of Public Safety saw that was an issue, as well.