SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — The pressure is on for the Greene County Sheriff’s Office (GCSO) as the new jail is set to open mid-spring.
Right now, the department has 84 officer vacancies. With an already overcrowded jail, GSCO is running against the clock.
“Our biggest area we need to fill right now are detention officers,” Deputy Paige Rippee, Public Information Officer, said. “We do still have a couple of medical staff positions opened.”
Rippee said staffing issues are not new to the sheriff’s office. But now, there’s a bigger force driving the need for more staff.
“The reason why we got the funding for these positions is for the new jail,” Rippee said. “When the jail is completely built, we will need135 positions. We have to [fill] the 84 [vacancies] first obviously and then we’ll add some on after that. It’s clearly taking us a little while to get to that number.”
Rippee said the current jail has about 970 inmates. It has to set up a trailer across the street to accommodate for the overflow, which holds 150 prisoners.
“The jail is only designed to hold 650 people and we have well over 900 in there,” Rippee said.
The new jail can hold over 1200 prisoners.
“I’m pretty sure that we’re projected to be fully done in April,” Rippee said.
The new jail has several administrative offices. People in those offices will be able to move once the jail is open. Prisoners can’t move there until the department has 135 detention officers.
“It takes a special kind of person to do this job,” Detention Officer Katie Anson said. “Behind that secure facility, you have no idea what you’re getting yourself into until you’re in it. I think that is why we have the most trouble keeping people.”
Anson was a Certified Nursing Assistant prior to being a dentition officer. She has been an officer for a year and seven months.
“On your first day, they throw you in,” Anson said. “It’s sink or swim. You find out quickly whether or not you can handle it.”
Anson said even though they’re short-staffed, the department is not requiring officers to work overtime.
“They don’t make us do any kind of overtime,” Anson said. “There’s no mandatory overtime but they do offer it up to people.”
Anson has volunteered to take an extra shift. But, she said the job isn’t for everyone.
“There are some downsides,” Anson said. “We do work with violent people every day. That’s just part of the job.”
Until more officers are hired, the inmates will stay put.
“As long as we have staffing, we can move all the inmates over to the jail,” Rippee said. “That can’t be done until we have the staff. We will stay here until the staffing issue is corrected.”
The next open testing event for deputies and officers is on November 9 in Bolivar.
“It takes a strong willed person, someone that’s courageous, someone that’s willing to stand up for themselves and their co-workers,” Anson said. “If you think that is someone that you can be, definitely apply. Definitely put yourself out there because we need those good people.”