North Carolina Department of Correction News - July 1999

Central Prison employees get needed pay break

Raleigh — Hiring and keeping qualified employees at Central Prison has always been difficult, but last year the problem reached a critical point when separations outnumbered new hires. The tense situation was relieved in May when the Office of State Personnel approved a 10 percent pay increase to employees who had successfully worked 12 months.

"Finding adequate help in Raleigh was nearly impossible," Prisons Director James French said. "This is not about comparing job skills with other prisons, but about Raleigh's low, 1 percent unemployment rate. We are in desperate need of staff to work, and this incentive to attract employees will help."

Primarily as a result of the good job market in the Raleigh area, 45 percent of Central Prison’s new hires left employment in their first year. Over time, this has resulted in a Central Prison work force where more than half of the employees have less than two years of experience.

"This is not a situation we want our prison employees to be in anywhere," Secretary Theodis Beck said. "When it comes to putting someone’s life on the line, our prisons need to be well staffed. This pay differential doesn’t mean that staff at other prisons who handle maximum and close custody inmates aren’t doing as good a job. It is all about attracting people to work."

Law enforcement throughout Raleigh is having a difficult time recruiting workers. The Raleigh Police Department had 70 vacancies itself, the highest of any large city in the state. Last year, Central Prison and the N.C. Correctional Institution for Women, also in Raleigh, had more than 100 vacancies. Competition for employees is much better in other counties such as Tyrell and Halifax where the unemployment rate is more than 8 percent. In Burke and McDowell counties, the unemployment rate is closer to 3.5 percent.

"The Division of Prisons is struggling with recruitment and retention issues at several facilities across the state," said Deputy Secretary Dan Stieneke. "However, no facility is more acute in this regard than Central Prison. Central Prison has an important mission within the Division of Prisons. The recent pay increase for Central Prison employees should help retain qualified employees who are exhibiting a positive potential to become future correctional professionals at Central Prison."

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