Utah Corrections Turns the Corner on Recruitment and Retention Efforts

The Utah Department of Corrections is turning a corner on recruitment and retention efforts with significantly more individuals coming into the agency than leaving. 

“Everyone’s efforts to help both recruit and retain certified staff are paying off,” said Spencer Turley, assistant deputy executive director with the Utah Department of Corrections in a message to Department staff earlier this week. “Thank you to everyone for your diligent efforts, please continue doing all you can to improve our staff retention and help recruit new staff. As you have additional ideas, please share them.”

The agency is now gaining officers at a rapid rate. To take a snapshot of the past 12 months, from February 2022 through July 2022, 87 correctional officers left the agency, and 28 correctional officers were hired into the agency. This was a net loss of 59 people. In August 2022, following the opening of USCF, and after correctional staff received a substantial pay increase, these numbers reversed themselves. From August 2022 through February 2023, 34 correctional officers left the agency, 105 correctional officers were hired into the agency. This is a net gain of 71 people. 

After the August 2022 compensation increase, Governor Spencer Cox personally sent a letter to previous employees and asked them to return to work for Corrections. From August 2022 through February 2023, UDC has had 27 former staff members return to work as officers. 

During the 2023 calendar year, there are 10 academies scheduled, with seven in Salt Lake and three in Gunnison. There is also potential to add more classes if needed. 

Currently there are two academies underway in Salt Lake and one Gunnison with a second Gunnison class starting March 28. For the two Salt Lake classes, there are 38 officers that were hired for the Utah State Correctional Facility (USCF) and 12 that were hired for Community Correctional Centers. The current Gunnison academy has 21 correctional officers for the Central Utah Correctional Facility. 

Hiring for the March 28 academy, to be held in Gunnison, is still underway. At this point, it looks like CUCF will be really close to filling – or will actually be able to fill – every correctional officer position they have. And once the academy is complete, they will be fully staffed. This alone will help lessen the overtime load on all of our staff. 

In January 2023, UDC’s staffing models indicated a need for an additional 135 officers at USCF to eliminate mandatory overtime. If retention rates stay like they are now, and if UDC can average a minimum of 20 officers in each of the seven academy classes this year, that will be enough to nearly eliminate all mandatory overtime at USCF.