Recruitment, retention still vex jail

FRONT ROYAL – A flurry of staff recruitment efforts aimed at filling job vacancies at the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail had delivered mixed results, the jail’s leader said Thursday.

Superintendent William Wilson told a Jail Authority meeting that RSW has received more than 70 resumes as a result of participation in a job fair at Lord Fairfax Community College on Aug. 10 and internet advertising that began Sept. 9. The jail is also advertising on two radio stations, one of which is sponsoring a job fair on Oct. 1 that jail representatives plan to attend.

The bad news is no one has taken the follow-up step of filling out an application on the jail’s website.

“I haven’t gotten any applications but there are plenty of resumes coming in,” Wilson said.

The jail has struggled with recruitment and retention since its opening in July 2014. Wilson told the Jail Authority in a memo that 48 uniformed and civilian employees have left the jail since July 2015. The number represents 38 percent of the 125 employees when the jail is fully staffed, although there are dozens of openings much of the time.

Finding and keeping employees has been complicated by fading hopes for a 2.5 percent pay raise that was expected for those who have been with the jail since its opening and received satisfactory performance evaluations. The money for the raises was supposed to come from the state, but lower-than-expected tax revenues have put a variety of spending plans on hold, including those for government worker pay raises.

A motion by Jail Authority member Dan Murray to consider the 2.5 percent pay raise, despite the lack of state funding, died for lack of a second. The authority then voted to resurrect discussion about a possible pay raise at its next meeting Nov. 17.

Wilson said corrections officers at the Northwest Regional Adult Detention Center in Winchester earn more than $3,000 annually in starting pay than at RSW. RSW has also lost seven employees to the Winchester facility since July 2015, although two have since left their jobs.

“Our biggest competitor is NRADC,” Wilson said, referring to the adult detention center. “We’ve got a lot of people who live in Frederick County. We’ve got a lot of people who live in West Virginia, and they drive right past that facility.”

RSW currently has 23 vacancies for correctional officers, two more than the number listed at the Jail Authority’s July meeting. Jail management has been paying special attention to filling two nursing positions.

Wilson’s turnover memo listed nine departures as a result of firing or resignations submitted in lieu of firing and 16 others who left for other law enforcement agencies in Page, Shenandoah, Loudoun, Rockingham and Prince William counties and several other places.

Others returned to a former employer, decided to leave the corrections field, moved out of state or resigned for medical reasons.

Wilson said those who left told him in exit interviews that the staff often complained of a lack of training, a problem the jail has tried to remedy in the last year by increasing the number of instructors from two to eight.

Exit interviews also revealed that more consistent communication of policies and procedures was also needed. Wilson said in his memo that jail managers have been “working diligently on getting expectations out to staff and having them review the policies and procedures in order to be more consistent.”

“As far as communication, that’s been improving vastly,” Wilson said.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137, ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com.