Jail cells in a city facility located in the southern United States.

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Growing Economy, Low Pay Leads to Prison Guard Shortage

August 02, 2018 - 7:38 am
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ST. LOUIS (KMOX) - The surging economy is causing problems within the walls of Missouri's prison system with a severe shortage of guards.

According to the Director of the Missouri Corrections Officers Association, the state is running at least 700 guards short, with some facilities understaffed by as many as 100.

Gary Gross says the first ones to notice the shortage are the inmates.

"If they an officer there two or three shifts in a row, certainly they’ll now what’s going on. It wears the staff out, it burns them out. It’s the highest risk job to start with," he says.

Gross says that's a potentially dangerous situation. He says that's led to rumblings that inmates may be calling for a sit down strike later this month.

“The problem with that is what it potentially could escalate into. It could escalate potentially into a full blown riot, which we don’t ever want to see,” he says.

He says the problem is the pay, which is $30,000 a year, whether you've been there nine months or 18 years. Gross says he's been hounding the legislature to provide raises for guards. He thinks they're finally realizing that people aren't going to do that job for that level of pay.

Gross says with no incentive to stay, guards are quitting to find a more rewarding, better paying job elsewhere.