DOC offers bonuses in campaign to hire correctional officers

 

DOVER — Delaware’s Department of Correction announced a new $3,000 recruitment and $1,000 referral incentive program for correctional officers on Tuesday. Effective immediately, new recruits and existing employees making referrals will collect the bonuses in two payments said the agency’s spokeswoman Jayme Gravell.

“When a new cadet graduates from the academy, they’ll get $1,500, and then they’ll get another $1,500 after they’ve met a commitment to stay with the department for at least 18 months afterward,” she said. “For current employees making a referral, they’ll also get $500 after the cadet they referred successfully completes the academy training, then another after the 18 month mark.”

Ms. Gravell said most DOC employees are eligible to make multiple referrals, with a few exclusions such as human resource employees and recruiters. She said that the DOC has used similar methods to boost recruitment numbers in the past decade. The department is hoping to spur new interest in the 261 currently vacant correctional officer positions.

Geoff Klopp, president of the Correctional Officers Association of Delaware, said the agency’s new policy was a “tremendous step in the right direction.” Often critical of the DOC’s “chronic understaffing” and overtime spending that he claims is on track for over $30 million by the end of the financial year, Mr. Klopp praised the move on Tuesday.

“I think this is the type of change that may help us realize almost immediate and substantial boosts in academy numbers,” he said. “We have to turn the tide and get the overtime moving in the right direction. How it is right now is unsustainable. This change will help us make what were offering more competitive with other law enforcement careers.”

To some extent, Mr. Klopp said existing correctional officers are the best suited to find more candidates.

“Correctional officers are our best recruiters because we know the type of person that can function well in this difficult job and we’re able to explain how this profession will work for them,” he said.

More ‘good news’

On Thursday, the largest academy class the DOC has had in at least a year starts their training, noted Ms. Gravell.

“There are 51 cadets in the class, 45 of which are correctional officers,” she said.

The academy class currently in session has 16 correctional officers.

The administration attributes the recent success to expanded recruitment efforts and the increasing attractiveness of the compensation package being offered.

“We have two full-time recruiters now going around to job fairs in the region,” said Ms. Gravell. “They go out to New York, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia. We can see that they’re having an effect because we have a more diverse group now — not only cadets from Delaware. So it’s probably, in part, due to those efforts.”

With successive classes near capacity — each academy class has a maximum of 60 cadets — Mr. Klopp said the DOC may finally be able to start inching toward a fully staffed status.

“If you can get 45 or more cadets into each of these academy classes, we could start making some real headway in six months or so,” he said. “We need to start permanently filling these vacancies — this was a good move toward that.”

To submit an application for the correctional officer position, visit delawarestatejobs.com/search/jobs.aspx.

Staff writer Ian Gronau can be reached at 741-8272 or igronau@newszap.com

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