Good benefits, good pay, including the possibility of overtime, clothing and training provided, job security, but most importantly, the satisfaction of doing something for your community, is what someone can expect while working in the county prison system.
“That rewarding feeling will be different for everyone, but it’s the satisfaction of helping and supporting your community,” said Ryan C. Barnes, deputy director of security and operations at Lycoming County Jail.
“It’s sometimes known as thankless work. You are behind the walls. You are behind bars. Nobody sees you outside doing what we do, so this reward is often not public. It’s more of an internal reward, a feeling of helping your community and helping those you live with. Barnes said.
Currently, the county prison system has approximately 14 vacancies to be filled, including correctional officer positions, relief officer positions, and a full-time licensed practical nurse position. A full complement of correctional officers at the prison is 50.
Since the mission of the prison system is to keep the community safe, operating with small staff is a problem.
“Our mission is to provide a level of safety and security to the public as well as the staff and inmates of the facility. As our staffing levels go down, there is a chance or opportunity that those security levels go down,” Barnes said.
“Staff are working more overtime. They work longer hours. They’re not as fresh at hour 12 or 13 as they were at hour two or three, which could impact something negative happening in the prison,” he added.
The general duties of a correctional officer include monitoring, observing and supervising inmates.
“These duties include security rounds, cell searches, checking contraband, preventing contraband, counting detainees throughout the day – there are three counts each shift they are on. officials – as well as the interaction with inmates” Barnes said.
“Again, doing security rounds, getting familiar with the inmates who are in the housing unit you are responsible for – enforcing the rules of the facility,” he added.
The minimum qualification for an entry-level position at the prison is a high school diploma.
“We hired and interviewed people with more training than that. We will hire people with a bachelor’s degree, but it is not a job requirement and experience is not necessary. » said director Brad Shoemaker.“We hire people who come from other sectors. We have hired people from the gas industry, hired people from local businesses, and also people who are new to the country can try to improve their employment status after completing criminal justice training,” Cobbler continued.
He emphasized that a criminal justice background is not a requirement.
Those hired to work at the prison are first trained internally. The first four weeks are all on-the-job training. Then, during the first year, all employed corrections officers are sent to the Elizabethtown Department of Corrections academies for another four weeks of training, as required by the state, Shoemaker explained.
Traditionally, there’s been an unofficial policy that job applicants must be 21, but Barnes noted they’ve made exceptions in the past and accepted younger job seekers.
“You need the right person to be under 21 and able to go to work in this environment at this young age,” Barnes said.
“It can be done but again it takes the right person and through the interview process we determine if we think they are ready to take that step into the field of corrections or not,” he added.
The right person for the job would be someone who is a good communicator because, Barnes said, they need to be able to communicate with other staff, the prison population and other prison staff.
“Besides that, a good decision maker. Someone who can sometimes make quick decisions in stressful situations,” Barnes said.
“Good ethics. Good morals. Someone who is able to think quickly on their feet, who is able to spend a good part of their day on their feet. It’s not about just sitting and observing, he there’s a lot of interaction.” Shoemaker explained.
He said a lot of people make the mistake of thinking the job looks like what they see on TV.
“These are based on entertainment. A lot of what happens in prison is very routine. There is a timetable. It is a 24/7/365 operation. Every hour of the day, seven days a week, is filled with something – something is happening in the building,” said Shoemaker.
In terms of pay rates, the starting salary for a prison officer is $18.10 per hour with full county benefits. For the nursing position, the rate is $23 per hour.
One thing prison officials want potential applicants to know is that prison jobs offer job security.
“The only thing we tell people is that there are jobs where they will make you work a lot and then they will fire you. We never fire anyone. It is a unique environment. It’s not for everyone, but it’s definitely an environment where a person can gain valuable experience. said Shoemaker.
“We’ve had people who have made careers out of those positions. We’ve had people who have used it as an entry level into the criminal justice system and have moved on to other entities. We’ve had correctional officers who have worked in other jobs with Lycoming County, within the state system, within the federal system, state police, local police departments,” He continued.
“There are a lot more chances of opportunities” he added.
Jobs within the prison system are posted on Indeed or via CareerLink. There is a link on the county website: Lyco.org.
This story is taken from a video posted on the Sun-Gazette YouTube channel, where it can be viewed in its entirety.