Correctional Service adjusts hiring process to attract more applicants


Prisons from Portland to Lakeview have jobs — corrections officer, nurse and trades — but the tight job market is a challenge.

Snake River Correctional Institution in Ontario is hiring. (Company/File)

In the town of Umatilla, the Two Rivers Correctional Institution needs to hire a Food Services Coordinator. Remuneration: up to $61,000 per year.

In Ontario, Snake River Correctional Institution is recruiting a nurse practitioner for the state’s largest prison. Compensation: up to $124,000.

And in Madras, Deer Ridge Correctional Facility is looking for a correctional officer with a salary of up to $78,000.

This prison competes with identical jobs available at state prisons in Portland, Salem, Baker City, and Lakeview.

Across the Oregon Department of Corrections, finding new employees has become the No. 1 job. On the morning of Wednesday, Feb. 9, the agency listed 46 openings.

“We are in critical condition,” said Gary Ninman, administrator of the Professional Development Unit at the Department of Corrections. “We have openings in our security series in every institution and many of them,” he said.

Ninman and Naomi Beverly, hiring managers for the correctional service, said the agency faces the same challenges as other government agencies and private employers — not enough people applying for jobs.

Television and movies are not our friends. They make prisons look like really dangerous places to work.

It’s a change for the state prison system, which operates 16 facilities.

In the past, Ninman said, “People came to us. These are highly sought after positions. This is simply not the case these days. »

The agency does not wait for applicants.

Two task forces have been created and they are “working feverishly to do a few things – find and attract applicants to the Oregon Department of Corrections,” Ninman said.

Agency officials have reformed their hiring practices.

In the past, a recruiting campaign would begin a long process involving interviews, background checks, and tests.

“These three steps can take several weeks,” Beverly said. “We’ve found great success in being able to condense these events into one-day events.”

This means that background checks can begin the moment a potential employee applies. Interview boards, putting applicants ahead of agency employees, happen faster and online. Testing, once handled by outside vendors who operated on their own schedules, is now done by corrections employees — and faster.

It makes a difference in a place like Ontario, where such tests have been done either by the local community college or in Boise. This sometimes meant that potential employees had to take time off work from other jobs to free up time for testing.

And the agency is now covering the $41 fee to take the national test – a cost once absorbed by applicants.

Beverly said agency officials have begun to “look at the hiring process through the lens of the candidate’s experience. We could look at some barriers or what we’ve been told is a problem and mitigate that.

Ninman said the agency is set to hire an outside marketing firm to help with recruiting — a first agency. The aim would be to make job offers desirable, which means changing perceptions about prison work, he said.

“We fought against misinterpretations or misinformation about the purpose of this work,” he said. “Television and movies are not our friends. They make prisons look like really dangerous places to work.

In fact, he says, “working in an institution is very safe.” He said corrections jobs pay well and offer strong benefits.

And, he hopes the message will spread that working with what the agency calls adults in custody instead of inmates is “intentional occupation.” We can really change people’s lives.

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