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CUCF staff help fill officer shortage

at Utah State Prison in Draper

 

By Robert Stevens 

Managing editor

2-13-2020

 

GUNNISON—Over a dozen staff members from the Central Utah Correctional Facility (CUCF) are helping to fill an officer shortage at the Utah State Prison in Draper.

Nearly a third of all 540 positions at the Draper prison are vacant, according to Utah Department of Corrections (UDOC) officials. The major short-staffing is compelling prison officials to send two buses with eight correctional officers each north to Draper each day to fill the gaps.

Chad Bennion, lodge director of the Fraternal Order of Police and former state legislator, says the prison working conditions due to short staffing are “dire” and the situation is impacting public safety.

The shortage has also caused a major increase in scheduled and mandatory overtime for correctional officers. According to Bennion, sometimes as much as 63 hours or more per month for officers. “It takes a toll,” he said.

Corrections officials are pushing Utah lawmakers to fund a multi-year compensation plan in an effort to recruit and retain new staff. Current starting wages as a correctional officer is $19 per hour, and new recruits get a $6,000 signing bonus.

The construction of the new prison further north is another tool prison officials hope to use as an incentive for recruitment, offering the chance of working in a new and state-of-the-art facility, but the increased commuting distance that will come with working at the new facility could backfire.

CUCF Warden, Shane Nelson said during a meeting regarding prison matters with Gunnison City leaders that he is already seeing an increase in prison staff hoping to transfer to work in Gunnison, since the new prison’s location makes it a closer drive to CUCF than the new facility