- Associated Press - Monday, February 19, 2018

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - A pay raise is among the ideas being considered to help Douglas County keep enough officers to manage the growing number of inmates in its jail.

Douglas County Jail has just over 330 correctional officers but is authorized to have more than 370, the Omaha World-Herald reported .

County Corrections Director Mark Foxall told the County Board that the jail is seeing a near-record level of inmates, and many have serious mental illnesses. The jail’s average daily population was 1,245 in January. All of the jail’s housing units are being used.

“If my population trend does not reverse, I’m going to run out of room,” Foxall said.

The circumstances have led to increasing mandatory overtime and difficult working conditions for officers, making it hard to keep employees, he said. Improving economic conditions also mean there’s a smaller pool of applicants willing to do the difficult work, he said.

“We are struggling with our staffing,” Foxall said.

Some County Board members said they’d considering raising pay to improve employee retention. They could consider raising taxes to avoid larger, more expensive problems at the jail, said board member Marc Kraft.

“One or two lawsuits could cost us millions of dollars,” Kraft said.

Douglas County pays beginning correctional officers $17.35 an hour, while neighboring Pottawattamie County pays $20.94 an hour.

The county also needs to investigate why jail numbers are rising and find solutions for the rising numbers, said Board Chairman Chris Rodgers. Such solutions could include cutting down the time people spend in jail while awaiting trial and redirecting people with mental health issues to other facilities.

Two probation officers now have an office in the jail, Foxall said. It should allow for presentence investigations to be processed quickly and allow more inmates to meet with probation officers before leaving jail so they have a better understanding of their probation terms.


Information from: Omaha World-Herald, http://www.omaha.com

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