- Associated Press - Thursday, September 21, 2017

BALTIMORE (AP) - The Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services is offering new correctional officers $5,000 to join the department.

Secretary Stephen T. Moyer announced the incentives program on Thursday in the Jail Industries building, with four correctional officers by his side.

Recruits will receive $2,000 for completing officer training academy, and an additional $3,000 after completing a one-year probationary period.

Officials hope the incentives will help ease understaffing woes that have plagued the department for years.

Moyer took office in 2015, shortly after 44 people, including 27 corrections officers at the Baltimore City Detention Center, were federally indicted in a widespread drug and cellphone trafficking scheme in which the guards were helping inmates smuggle contraband into the jail. In certain circumstances, inmates and corrections officers engaged in sexual activity and embarked on romantic relationships. Tavon White, a high-ranking member of the Black Guerrilla Family gang, impregnated four guards. And last year, 80 people were charged in a similar racketeering conspiracy at the Eastern Correctional Institution in Westover, Maryland, including 35 inmates, 27 facilitators and 18 correctional officers.

Since taking office, Moyer has pledged to more rigorously screen potential corrections officers. However, the increased scrutiny meant more positions stayed vacant for longer periods of time. Last year Moyer began giving bonuses to officers who successfully recruit friends and family to the department.

Spokesman Gerard Shields says there are now less than 700 vacant positions across the state; however with the closing of a facility and the impending transfer of its correctional officers to other buildings, Shields says the actual number of vacant positions is closer to 420

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