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Lawmakers get update on soon-to-be launched Department of Adult Correction

 

Employee retention and recruitment will be a focal point for the soon-to-be launched Department of Adult Correction, the agency’s chief deputy secretary for administration told lawmakers on Thursday.

“Like everybody else, we’ve been impacted by the Great Resignation,” Douglas Holbrook told members of the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Justice and Public Safety. “We’re putting the wellness of our employees at the forefront because it’s a challenging job.”

Douglas Holbrook, Dept. of Public Safety

Lawmakers voted in 2011 to put the state’s Department of Correction within the Department of Public Safety as a cost-cutting measure intended to make the government run smoother. Legislators reversed course in 2021 negotiations, opting to return to a system similar to before, creating the Department of Adult Correction, which will officially launch Jan. 1. The employees currently working for DPS will be transferred to the DAC in the coming months.

Holbrook briefed legislators Thursday on the plans for the massive new state agency, which will oversee the nearly 30,000 people incarcerated in the state’s 54 prisons, 65,000 people on probation and 10,000 post-release supervision. Not to mention the 21,000 people expected to be employed by the agency.

The department does not yet have a secretary, but Holbrook told legislators he expects the governor will make an announcement in the near future, though that person would not have the legal powers as secretary of the department until next year.

The agency will hire 22 full-time employees to provide integrated behavioral health for corrections employees. Holbrook said those workers will offer mental health services to prison employees, an important benefit considering the traumatic nature of the job.

“It’s a constant state of pressure,” he said.

Holbrook said he expects to hire people for a range of jobs, not just correction officers: he singled out welders, plumbers and health care staff as particularly important hires. State officials are putting out targeted radio and TV ads and putting out advertisements on social media and on buses.

“We’re doing everything we can to get the word out, we’re trying to hire people,” Holbrook said.

Starting next month, the state will also be offering a $7,000 sign-on bonus for those who come on to work for the department.

Holbrook also talked about the new divisions that will be a part of the department, services he said already exist within DPS but will be centralized in the new DAC. Those divisions will focus on professional standards and compliance, health care services for the incarcerated population and reentry, making sure those who are sent home are prepared to adjust to life outside prison.

“Reentry is one of the most important things that we can do,” Holbrook said. “Almost all the people that go to prison come home, and they are in very great danger when they first arrive home of not staying the path that they had been set on… that is a critical time for us to make sure, as a state and as a community, to make sure that people continue to receive the structure that they need in the community without the extreme structure of a prison environment.”

Here is a link to Holbrook’s presentation.

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Lawmakers get update on soon-to-be launched Department of Adult Correction