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Workforce Issues in Corrections

NCJ Number
Corrections Today
Date Published
December 2019
12 pages

This paper discusses the following workforce issues in corrections: staff recruitment, selection, retention, training, and agency succession planning.


Correctional officer vacancy rates in some prisons approach 50 percent. Although community supervision agencies typically fare better, probation and parole officer vacancy rates have been reported as high as 20 percent. Regarding retention, in some state prisons, annual correctional officer turnover rates are as high as 55 percent. Given the shrinking pool of qualified workers, agencies often compete for candidates, and the corrections sector is apparently losing the competition for desirable recruits. In an effort to address the crisis in corrections personnel, the RAND Corporation and the University of Denver analyzed insights from a work group of agency executives and academics who have researched the correctional workforce. This effort, which was sponsored by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), identified a series of 64 systemic needs, with 13 top-tier needs associated with the following five themes: clarification of the mission of the corrections sector, improvement in staff competencies, improvement in staff training, improvement in work environment and conditions, and the development of future leaders. This paper discusses the group's methods and findings. A figure lists each problem or opportunity and suggests what is needed to address each one.

Date Published: December 1, 2019