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‘An Insanely Dangerous Situation’: More than 41% of Wisconsin Correctional Officer Positions Are Vacant

Gov. Tony Evers’ administration has mismanaged the state prison system. “It is an insanely dangerous situation,” a Corrections employee told WRN.

More than one-third of all security staffing positions (meaning correctional guards and sergeants) in Wisconsin’s adult prisons are vacant. The rates are even higher in the state’s maximum-security prisons; the vacancy rate is over 45% for two of them, according to the state’s own data, which was obtained by Wisconsin Right Now.

This has led to forced overtime and lower hiring standards, a Corrections employee told us.

The vacancy rate for correctional officers alone is 41.7%.

A corrections officer, who wanted to remain anonymous, said, “Sh*tty management, sh*tty staff, sh*tty inmates, sh*tty work environment, sh*tty hours and getting jammed for OT non stop. Basically no requirements to become a CO (correctional officer) now, leading to even sh*ttier staff.” This person said that vacancies have been a problem for years.

A probation and parole agent we spoke with told Wisconsin Right Now that the situation is worsening and has grown so desperate that “they are actually offering and allowing probation agents to be limited term employee at state prisons working as corrections officers because they are so short staffed.”

We asked the state Department of Corrections, run by a Tony Evers’ cabinet appointee, all about this, and they refused to respond.

In some cases, two people are responsible for guarding more than 100 prisoners, the agent said. “It is an insanely dangerous situation,” said the agent, who wanted to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation.

In some cases, Corrections isn’t even paying people overtime but rather straight pay even beyond 40 hours so they could accrue more overtime per year, the agent said.

“The guards are being forced into overtime for 16 hour shifts minimum three times a week,” the agent said. “They are miserable and they hire anyone they can. Their hiring standards have also gotten so low that contraband in the prisons is at an all-time high. The good guards are so demoralized and burned out that a lot of them leave.”

The numbers are according to the state Department of Corrections own data.

The full-time position vacancy rates for correctional officers and sergeants was 32% for the December 4-17, 2022, pay period.

There are 4,635 total full-time correctional officer and sergeant positions in adult prisons.

1,485 were vacant.

The situation is even more egregious in some maximum security prisons.

At Waupun Correctional Institute, the vacancy rate is 47.6%.

The vacancy rate in the maximum security Columbia Correctional Institution is 45.2%.

At Stanley Correctional Institute, it’s 41.5%.

The highest vacancy rate is at a medium-security prison: At Kettle Moraine Correctional Institute, the vacancy rate is 48.5%.

In juvenile corrections, the vacancy rate is 31.9%.

Here are the questions we sent DOC on December 22, 2022, and we received NO answer:

Vacancies are at 41% for correctional officers and a third for security staff in WI state prisons. Why? What is being done to fix this problem. People in the system believe this is dangerous. Is it?

-Are correctional officers being forced to do 16 hour shifts on OT? How is that safe? How often? We heard three times a week

-Is it true probation and parole officers are being used as correctional officers? Are they properly trained? Is that dangerous? Are they being paid overtime or straight time if they already worked 40 hours per week in probation parole? Was the overtime cap removed for them?

-We heard hiring standards for COS are lowered. True or false and how so?

-Is it true that some units in state prisons have only 2 staffers to more than 100 inmates? What’s the protocol standard for that, and what is the reality of how many staffers there are per say 100 inmates per unit in adult prisons?

-Some early releases are not paroles. They are not listed as parole grants. The number of parole grants is smaller than the number of earned releases listed on your website. Why? Through what mechanism are those inmates being released?

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