Help Wanted At Oklahoma Prisons

Thursday, May 22nd 2008, 5:45 pm
By: News On 6

While jobs may be scarce in some industries these days, there are plenty of positions available at Oklahoma prisons.  But, one Green Country penitentiary says finding candidates to fill those jobs is difficult.  The News On 6's Chris Wright reports the Oklahoma State Penitentiary says it now has a critical staff shortage, and the potential pool of employees is not getting any bigger.

On Monday, two inmates were killed and eight more were injured during a riot at the Oklahoma State Reformatory in Granite.  Officials say the situation was handled well considering that the prison, like most in the state, is under-staffed.

"It's prison. It's convicted felons. It's the nature of the business. It's what we do.  So no, it's not for everybody," said recruitment coordinator J.C. Colbert.

J.C. Colbert is in charge of recruiting for the Oklahoma Department of Corrections and says attracting people to his profession is tough.

The DOC held a job fair in McAlester on Wednesday, but not many candidates showed up.  That's despite all the openings at the state penitentiary.  The prison is short nearly 50 correctional officers.  There are also jobs available in nearly every other department.

Prison officials admit that people aren't exactly scaling the walls to get inside and work in the prison.  They say they are having a tough time competing with more lucrative jobs available in the McAlester area.

"We do have competition.  We have the ammunition depot, the oil fields, who are offering big bucks," said human resources manager Linda Jefferson.

Linda Jefferson says that people like Norma Nixon are becoming a rarity.  She is currently temping at the prison, but wants to work there full time.

"It's been good.  It's really interesting, different every day," said Norma Nixon.

But, if others, like Norma, are willing to go inside the walls of Big Mac, they are likely to find steady employment.

"If 49 people come in and pass their background, they're good to go," said human resources manager Linda Jefferson.

The state penitentiary says the shortage is beginning to take a toll on its correctional officers, many of whom now often have to work overtime and double shifts.