Prison staffing not a problem in Vermont

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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) National attention on staffing shortages at prisons across the country had us wondering about Vermont.

Vermont Department of Corrections Commissioner Mike Touchette says while the staffing levels do not make the job unsafe for corrections officers, they are always looking for new recruits.

Touchette says staffing is based on the prison population. If there are more who are mentally ill who require a higher level of care, there is a lower staff to inmate ratio.

We found Vermont has one corrections officer for every two inmates.

As of July, there were just over 1,200 inmates in Vermont's six facilities with more than 600 security staffers and 28 open positions.

Touchette says staffing is not as big of a challenge here in Vermont compared to other states facing similar issues.

"That said, we are always in the constant recruitment and retention process, and this is tough work," Touchette said. "The staff that do do this work do incredible lifesaving heroes' work on a daily basis, but it's not for everybody. It truly is a very challenging job."

Touchette says the department is now committing a full-time position to recruiting corrections officers, which they hope will help close the gap on staffing challenges.

The starting pay for corrections officers in more than $18 an hour, which translates into an annual base salary of just under $40,000.