Correctional officers hired to relieve stress at Pike jail

Milford. The rate of pay is a “big jump” from the rate offered just a month ago, commissioners say.

| 10 Sep 2021 | 05:47

The Pike County jail has two new corrections officers, who were hired at a much higher rate than correctional officers hired just a month ago.

The county commissioners said increase was needed to get good officers at a time of fierce competition. The two officers were hired at $24 per hour. The officers hired by the commissioners on Aug. 4 were approved at $17.89 per hour.

This is a big jump,” said commissioners’ chair Matthew Osterberg. “We understand it. The warden (Craig Lowe) up there is doing a wonderful job, but he can’t do it if he doesn’t have the personnel.”

He said the jail has had serious staffing issues with only 89 corrections officers there.

“Unfortunately, we’ve been back and forth about what to do to incentivize people to apply there,” Osterberg said. “We haven’t been successful. This is the next step. We’re trying to make ourselves more competitive to state and federal agencies.”

Osterberg said the short roster puts a lot of stress on the staff because certain programs need certain qualified staff members.

Commissioner Steve Guccini said because of the way inmates are classified, the county can’t hire fewer officers even when, like now, the numbers of both correctional officers and inmates are down.

“There might be (correctional officers) that oversee a unit that only has two people because that’s a state regulation,” Guccini said. “It’s not a direct reduction of numbers.”

Osterberg said workers at the Pike County Correctional Facility, even the kitchen and maintenance staff, are prohibited from leaving the facility under their shift is over. Meals are confined to the facility.

He said Lowe is having trouble filling all those positions.

“We’ve had many cases, where people come there and take the job and get the training and then they’re off to state and federal agencies,” Osterberg said.

He said he has heard that, because of the higher advertised salaries, people who have left Pike may be looking to come back.

Commissioner Ronald Schmalzle said an expansive study was done with neighboring counties. It even looked at the federal penitentiary in Otisville, N.Y.

“For us to be competitive, this isn’t an extraordinary amount for a person to be paid that profession,” Schmalzle said. “We need to be at – or a little better – than the others so we can keep the limited number of people that apply for these positions.”

“For us to be competitive, this isn’t an extraordinary amount for a person to be paid that profession” Commissioners chair Matthew Osterberg