- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 7, 2015

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - A state prison in Nashville that houses men with mental illnesses is facing a critical shortage of corrections officers.

Officials at the Lois M. DeBerry Special Needs Facility say they are struggling to meet the demands brought about after implementing a new schedule intended to save $1.4 million statewide in wage costs, according to documents obtained by The Tennessean (https://tnne.ws/1JLz6Vy ).

Robert Bell, the training specialist at Lois DeBerry, characterized the situation as an “emergency staffing” issue in a July 2 email.

The schedule changes have sometimes caused employees to work back-to-back shifts, the facility’s warden Stevenson Nixon said. Nixon said he is addressing that problem by having non-security employees who had previously worked as corrections officers temporarily take their old jobs back.

Bryan Merritt, president of the lobbying group the Tennessee State Employees Association, said he looks forward to talks with the state Department of Correction.

“The best starting point is for them to fill up some recruitment classes, and they are going to have to overlap some positions and have some people coming out trained and ready to work,” Merritt said. “With the staffing levels right now, they have no other option than to work doubles and extra shifts.

The DeBerry facility is also dealing with a 36.9 percent turnover rate, the third-highest in the state.

Corrections officers received a 5 percent pay raise July 1. However, Corrections Commissioner Derrick D. Schofield admitted in a memo that wages for state corrections officers still lagged the market standard. Entry salary for a correctional officer is $2,148 a month, according to the Tennessee Department of Correction website.


Information from: The Tennessean, https://www.tennessean.com

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