Jail has struggled with short staffing for ‘years and years’
By Bobby Bryant, Editor
Since the beginning of this year, the Darlington County jail has hired 41 new corrections officers. That might sound like a lot. But in the same period of time, 36 jail officers have left. “Right now, we are 21 officers short,” Maj. David Young of the Darlington County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release last week. “For years, it seems that it has been hard to find adequate staffing at the W. Glenn Campbell Detention Center,” said Young, an aide to Sheriff James Hudson. “For whatever reason,” he said, interest in being a corrections officer has dwindled. “It has become very hard to even find applicants, (much) less hire and be able to retain officers.” The Sheriff’s Office has begun a new recruiting push, and County Council has agreed to raise starting pay for certified corrections officers by $5,750 a year. But figures given out by Young show that the jail’s struggle to hire, and keep, an adequate staff has been going on for at least five years. “For years and years, the Detention Center has always remained short,” Young said. Young supplied figures for 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021. During 2017, the first year of then-Sheriff Tony Chavis’ term, the jail hired 38 new officers and lost 21. They “left, or became no longer employed for whatever reason,” Young said. During 2018, the jail hired 64 new officers and lost 50 – and this was years before COVID-19 further dampened interest in the corrections field. During 2019, Young said, the jail hired 49 new officers and lost 29. During 2020, when the pandemic destabilized the U.S. economy, the Darlington County jail hired 32 officers and lost 19. Since the start of 2021, when Hudson was sworn in as sheriff, the jail has hired 41 and lost 36. On the law-enforcement side, Young said, the situation is similar but not as bad. “On the detention side, it has been a lot worse.” So far this year, the Darlington County Sheriff’s Office has hired 20 new employees and lost 15 existing ones. “It seems to be a trend all over the Pee Dee area that all agencies are short and experiencing a high turnover rate,” Young said. “ … It just seems to be getting more difficult to hire and retain people in law enforcement in general.” The Sheriff’s Office has put together a video that it hopes will help in recruiting. The DCSO also is working with a marketing group, Young said, is using social media, has partnered with the Indeed job-search online company and has been taking part in area job fairs. Hudson told County Council in June that he has 75 sworn deputies, divided into three shifts per day, to patrol an area of about 600 square miles seven days a week. Six patrol deputies work each shift, he said, and they might deal with scores of calls per shift.