A recruitment effort is underway in Washtenaw County to fill nearly two dozen positions as the county runs low on corrections officers to watch over inmates.
Inside the Washtenaw County Jail, staffing shortages are raising concerns about safety for corrections officers and inmates alike.
"We're not in a state of emergency," said Washtenaw County Sheriff Jerry Clayton.
Clayton is disputing reports last week about an emergency at the jail, but admits they're short -- only 77 of their 100 positions for corrections officers are currently filled, which impacts everyone.
"One day we had to lock down because there weren't enough staff here so we locked down the majority of the day," said an inmate named Donald.
Clayton said officer morale is challenged.
"People are burned out. You can only work back-to-back shifts for so long before you say 'can you give me some help,'" he said.
The sheriff says help is on the way. They are reassigning district court staff to the sheriff's office, reassigning staff outside to work inside and trying to bolster the number of people to work day-to-day shifts. For inmates, though, there will also be 24-hour lock downs on a rotational basis.
"When they're not locked down, make sure that we increase programming and activity to really make sure the tension and stress level for the inmate population remains at manageable levels," Clayton said.
The sheriff says more than 50 percent of the inmates here haven't even been to trial yet, meaning they haven't been convicted of anything.
"It's incumbent upon us to operate our facility in a manner that respects everyone's constitutional rights," he said.
The sheriff says the jail has a national reputation to uphold and that mean they need to hire more corrections officers.
"You come in to this unit and have a positive attitude, make a positive impact on these guys' lives - you'll have a good day," corrections officer Sean Mace said.
Nationwide recruiting and hiring has been a challenge for law enforcement, but Clayton says Washtenaw County offers great training, a safe environment and will even pay for employees to pursue their education from undergraduate degrees to law school.
"We pay 100 percent of your education. We have done this up all the way up to a J.D.," he said. "I want the best people working for us -- give them everything that they need. If that means they get so good they go somewhere else -- we don't to lose them, but while they're here, they're the best that they can be."
The sheriff's department needs to hire 23 corrections officers. They are going to have a hiring expo on May 18 at the sheriff's department.