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Big incentives offered for new corrections officers

Big incentives offered for new corrections officers

There's a shortage of corrections officers across the state. Escambia County is trying to fill jobs by offering to pay for school, and even pay people to go to school.

Jerald Rheinhardt is a corrections officer at the Escambia County Jail. Looking up from a computer screen in the cell block, he said, "I've always wanted to work in law enforcement."

Usually, job candidates have to invest their own time and money to go to the Corrections Academy then see if they can get hired. But for the second year now, the county is trying to deal with a shortage of corrections officers by offering big incentives.

Lt. Shawn Hankins explained how it works, saying, "With this program we actually hire individuals that are not certified, we pay for them to go to the Corrections Academy, we pay them a salary to be in school, and we take care of all their uniforms, they receive benefits and everything."

Ideally, the jail has 300 officers, but typically they run about 20 officers short and cover shifts with overtime. Lieutenant Hankins said it takes a certain type of person to be a CO, with a desire to serve the public and a good measure of self-confidence.

He continued, "Nobody's ever happy to come to jail, it's usually their worst day when they're here, they're not real happy to see us."

Officers that come through the training program and pass the state exam will sign a two-year contract. For Jerald Rheinhardt, it's working out.

He said, "It's great, it's competitive pay, I worked at Navy Federal before I worked here, starting the Academy it was competitive pay to there, then getting out, you do get a pay raise once you do become certified and start working."

Training pay is $13.75 an hour, and officers get $15.12 an hour once they're certified. Lt. Hankins said it's not for everyone, but there are rewards.

He explained, "You try to change one person or make a difference in somebody's life, you know you help someone out. We can do some simple things, if you answer a guy's question, you can do something simple, not out of your way, but just doing your job."

Applicants will have to pass background screenings and drug tests. To apply, visit myescambia.com/jobs or contact Lt. Shawn Hankins at (850)436-9130 or sphankins@myescambia.com.

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