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Turning Around Turnover

NCJ Number
Corrections Today Magazine Volume: 66 Issue: 5 Dated: August 2004 Pages: 54-57
Jane Lommel
Date Published
August 2004
4 pages
This article considers the problem of staff recruitment and retention in the correctional facilities and offers suggestions for improvement.
Turnover rates in the corrections industry are notoriously high; in 2000, the average national turnover rate among correctional officers was 16.1 percent, although rates vary widely between States. A forthcoming study from the American Correctional Association (ACA) Building a Correctional Workforce for the 21st Century identified several factors causing the difficulty in recruiting and retaining correctional officers. Noncompetitive compensation was the most frequently cited reason for recruiting difficulty and the second most frequently cited reason for retention problems. Other challenging factors identified in the study included demanding work hours, stress and burnout, and employees who are not suited to the job. Analyses have indicated that correctional officer turnover is highest when unemployment rates are lowest; thus as national unemployment rates continue to drop into 2004, the corrections industry can expect an upswing in turnover rates. Respondents to the ACA’s 2003 survey reported many deleterious outcomes of high correctional officer turnover rates, including high training costs, understaffed facilities, greater strain placed on remaining staff, inexperienced staff, and lower staff morale. Given these outcomes, it is imperative that the correctional industry begins work immediately to improve staff recruitment and retention. The author offers several suggestions for both recruitment and retention strategies, such as giving staff business cards as a way of promoting morale and staff recruitment efforts among their friends and family. Managers are encouraged to invest in staff by sending them to training seminars and local town meetings. High turnover is inefficient for any organization, especially an industry as large as the American correctional system.