States across the country are struggling to staff their prisons and jails. The shortages are costing them in overtime -- and lives lost when inmates riot against conditions likely worsened by overworked guards.
Late last summer, Rodney Miller, the executive director of the West Virginia Sheriffs’ Association and a state lawmaker, witnessed some things that shocked him.
He and other West Virginia legislators visited the state’s prisons and jails, observing from towers and from cell blocks. They saw inmates exchanging contraband drugs, inmates brought to medical care bloody from fights, and sleep-deprived guards struggling to respond to it all.
“Corrections officers were working six or seven days a week, 10- to 12- and sometimes 16-hour shifts. Some of the corrections officers were having to sleep at the facilities and then going back to work,” says Miller, who worked in law enforcement for 33 years and says he’s never seen prison workforce shortages as severe as they are now.