Despite a raise this year, low salaries are making it difficult to hire Mississippi corrections officers. MPB's Desare Frazier reports.
Mississippi's Department of Corrections Commissioner is struggling with staffing shortages to operate its three state facilities. Raises that took effect in July bring the starting pay to $25,650. Commissioner Pelicia Hall says its the lowest salary in the nation. After speaking with lawmakers about the problem earlier this year, she talked about putting a prison on lockdown.
"We don't have room necessarily to move those inmates right now but nor do we have the appropriate level of staff to supervise them, so we had to put the facility on lockdown as a safety and security measure for our staff, for the individuals housed there and also for the public " said Hall.
As of May 2018, the average salary is just over $30,840. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Georgia's average is 34,290, Louisiana averages $34,370 and Alabama $36,760. Why should people care? Attorney Cliff Johnson is with the MacArthur Justice Center at the University of Mississippi School of Law.
"They don't get regular access to yard time. They're stuck in solitary confinement. They're stuck in cells for hours and days and months on end. That increases the likelihood of violence. It increases the likelihood of mental health problems, other medical problems," said Johnson.
Johnson says 97 percent of those incarcerated will return to society. Mississippi ranks number three in the nation for incarceration rates according to the non-profit Prison Policy Initiative.