The Department of Corrections pulled out all the stops Thursday, holding job fairs in Concord and Manchester to attract the right people for 40 correctional officer jobs.
Statewide, Jeff Lyons, state corrections department spokesman, said the DOC is looking to employ a total of 66 correctional officers — 40 at the Concord prison, 20 in Berlin and six at the women’s prison in Goffstown.
He said overtime has become an issue for the department which, in June, had 65 unfunded positions and 118 vacancies — exclusive of employees out on military, family or sick leave. Some officers are required to work double shifts three to four times a week, Lyons said.
Lyons said at the Concord prison, sometimes there are only five correctional officers on duty for a unit with 500 prisoners, although during the day, there are program counselors on hand as well.
A contingent of DOC corrections officers and state, DOC and union officials — George Copadis, commissioner of New Hampshire Employment Security and David W. Laughton, Local 633 secretary-treasurer were on hand in Manchester Thursday. At mid-morning, they outnumbered job seekers about 2 to 1.
Before the fair opened at the Teamsters Local 633 hall, Lyons said a good turnout would be 50 to 60 applicants. Of those, he said, probably only a handful would qualify.
Applicants must be at least 20 years old and have a high school diploma or a G.E.D. equivalent. No experience is required, although experience in correctional work such as with military police is desirable for a “corrections officer trainee,” a full-time position that pays between $32,365 and $37,648. The trainees earn another $1,300 annually in hazard duty pay.
Candidates must pass a criminal background test, a polygraph, a medical examination and physical agility test which includes a 1.5-mile run, sit-ups, push-ups, sit and reach flexibility and one repetition bench press.
Two applicants spoke to a Union Leader reporter. Andrew, who asked that his last name not be published, had just been laid off from his job at a county sheriff’s department in Massachusetts. He said he is certified in the Bay State as a police officer and thought his skills could be transferable to a correctional officer’s job.
Samuel Mutungi of Derry, who came to New Hampshire from Kenya six years ago, said he thought he would like being a correctional officer. Currently, he is working at Wal-Mart.
“I would like to change my career path,” said Mutungi who was a teacher back in Kenya.
Cpl. Jeremiah Totten, part of the DOC contingent at the fair, has been a corrections officer for three years at the Concord prison. He would “definitely” recommend the job, which he said has great benefits, including retirement, and pay.
“We have a great camaraderie,” he said. “We’re all honest and decent people.” The guards of the old days, he said, are long gone and prisoners are treated with consideration. The job is nothing like how it is portrayed on TV, according to Totten.
Before budget cuts in 2008-09, Lyons said the state prison in Concord was staffed with 277 correctional officers; it now has about 200. Today, the budget is for 470 correctional officers statewide.