Staff turnover at Prince William-Manassas Adult Detention Center reached 16% in June, the highest it’s been in years, according to jail officials.
The jail’s staff turnover rate climbed from 11% in 2018 to 16% in 2019.
“That’s the highest I've seen,” said Jail Superintendent Pete Meletis during a July meeting of the Prince William-Manassas Regional Jail Board. “We’re treading water.”
Of the jail’s 426 authorized positions, 74 were vacant as of June. Of those, 56 vacancies were for the position of jail officer, an entry-level job with a starting annual salary of $50,000. Other vacant positions included jail sergeant, jail therapist and jail food service supervisor.
According to the jail’s latest personnel report, 45 staff members resigned from the jail in fiscal year 2019.
Maj. Amanda Lambert, director of support services, said jail staff who resigned were primarily leaving the facility to work elsewhere, often for other law-enforcement agencies in the area that offer higher salaries.
“They’re simply going to other places of employment. They're leaving to go into the field they studied for in college and they’re also going to other law-enforcement agencies for higher pay,” Lambert said. “Recruiting doesn’t seem to be the problem, it’s the retention. We’re hiring people, we’re just not able to keep them.”
Lambert said depression and post-traumatic stress among jail staff who are tasked with supervising and managing the jail’s inmate population was an issue nationally, but that there was no evidence that this was a contributing factor to the jail's high staff turnover rate.
Prince William-Manassas Adult Detention Center holds inmates for the City of Manassas and Prince William County and typically houses around 900 to 1,000 inmates at a given time, exceeding its state-rated operational capacity of 667 inmates.
The county is currently constructing a jail expansion that will add 204 beds to the facility to address the uptick in inmates being held there. The project will be completed in March 2020.
Timothy Trent, president of the Virginia Association of Regional Jails and superintendent of Blue Ridge Regional Jail Authority, said Prince William’s detention center isn’t the only facility in Virginia experiencing staffing difficulties. He says high staff turnover is a statewide issue.
“There has been what looks like a trend of higher turnover in jails across Virginia. I don’t know the exact reason,” Trent said. “I think pay has something to do with it. Deputies and police officers generally make more money than correctional officers.”
Blue Ridge Regional Jail Authority, which serves the City of Lynchburg and the surrounding counties of Bedford, Appomattox, Campbell, Halifax and Amherst, is also struggling to deal with problem, Trent said.
“We may recruit 10 to 20 new officers on the first of the month, and by the middle of the month we’ll be lucky retain 50% of those new employees,” Trent said. “It’s a constant battle, not only at Blue Ridge but just about every jail in the state of Virginia.”
Clarification: An earlier version of this article stated that depression and post-traumatic stress may have been an issue in the high turnover rate of jail staff at Prince William-Manassas Adult Detention Center. Maj. Amanda Lambert clarified that while depression and post-traumatic stress among jail officers was an issue at other jails across the country, this was not the case in Prince William.
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