JUNEAU — Dodge County Sheriff Dale Schmidt said he’s down 14 correctional officers and the shortage has become “extremely taxing” on his staff, who are filling overtime shifts.
The overtime shifts have become so problematic Schmidt said he was “forced” to make the decision to temporarily close down one of the pods in the jail.
“Closing down the pod will have significant fiscal implications, but we believe we can absorb most of those (costs) in the 2021 budget as a result of our vacancies and other cost-saving measures we have implemented in 2021,” he said in an email Monday to Dodge County supervisors. “It is my goal to re-open the pod in January if possible to limit the fiscal implications in 2022.”
When the Daily Times asked Schmidt how many pods make up the Dodge County Jail he could not discuss its layout because it’s a “security issue.”
He did say inmates are not “doubling up” in the jail, but would not comment on whether inmates are being sent to other area jails to ease his staffing concerns.
“We are considering several options that have not been finalized at this time and I am not prepared to discuss (them) until plans are finalized,” he told the Daily Times.
Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department Capt. Margo Gray, who serves as jail administrator, said Jefferson County has not housed any Dodge County inmates on contract.
“We will from time to time have one in our facility on a warrant or probation officer hold, but that is common for any facility to have that,” Gray said. “They remain in the facility until the agency issuing the warrant is able to arrange transport.”
Dodge County Human Resources Director Sarah Hinze said Tuesday there are a total of 77 employees assigned to the jail (excluding the occasional jail transport team of 19 employees). Of the 77 employees, there are 51 correctional officers in the Dodge County Jail, she added.
In the same email to supervisors, Schmidt said he is trying to fill the vacancies, but it takes three to four months to train an individual before the person can work on his own.
In a Sept. 5 email to the Dodge County Judicial and Public Protection Committee, Schmidt said he had five individuals he was conducting background checks on.
According to a job posting for a jail/corrections officer on the Dodge County website, the position pays between $21.61 to $23.85 an hour.
The minimum required qualifications are a high school diploma or equivalent and a Wisconsin Jail Officer Certification (or attain it within one year from the date of hire).
Schmidt said his office will provide all the necessary training to the new employee.
He said “all options are on the table” for hiring correctional officers.
“I have requested the human resources committee to consider retention and recruitment incentives,” Schmidt said. “I have not had a decision from them at this point.”
Schmidt said he has a recruitment video highlighting his employees. He is also looking at other paid advertising options and recruitment fairs.
“I believe that we will be able to stabilize what is going on in a few months and our staff is committed to doing so,” Schmidt told supervisors in Monday’s email. “We ask for your support and assistance in reaching that goal quickly so we can get back to operating at full capacity.”
The Dodge County Jail joins the ranks of several of the state’s department of corrections facilities seeking jailers.
“Some Wisconsin Department of Correction facilities have struggled with longer-running job vacancy issues,” said John Beard, Wisconsin Department of Corrections communications director. “However, overall staff vacancy rates at Wisconsin Department of Corrections have gone up over the past year.”
Beard said the state Department of Corrections has taken many steps to try and improve their recruitment and retention efforts.
“We’re once again increasing our presence at job fairs, which were greatly limited over the first year of the pandemic,” he said. “We explore new strategies like recruiting through social media, truck wraps (vehicle decals) and the television spots during Milwaukee Brewers and Milwaukee Bucks games.”