TUMWATER – The state Department of Corrections has launched a "rapid hiring" process for correctional officer positions statewide as the state anticipates staff shortages in coming months due to COVID-19.
According to a news release from the agency, the expedited process means candidates can be recruited, screened, interviewed, tested and trained as CO-1s in a 32-day period.
“Corrections’ goal is to maintain public safety during the COVID-19 public health crisis,” said Secretary Steven Sinclair. “As we work to protect our employees and those in our care from exposure to COVID-19, ensuring adequate staffing is critical. These vital public service jobs provide a great opportunity for individuals seeking a career in Corrections, where we work to improve public safety by positively changing lives every day.”
Because of the expedited training, new correctional officer hires (CO1Ss) will be limited in what they can do. The restrictions include:
- Restrained escorts at a facility will be done with a Correctional Officer 2 and/or supervisor. The Correctional Officer 2 will apply the restraints prior to escort.
- Pre-planned use of force will not include CO1s.
- CO1s will not work in Intensive Management Units, Segregation Units, Secured Housing Units, Special Needs Units, Treatment Evaluation Centers, Closed Observation Areas, or other units/assignments, which require enhanced security measures.
- CO1s will not work as hospital watch officers or transport officers.
- CO1s will not work a single-post assignment.
The expedited hiring process may extend to additional essential positions, including food service and health care professionals, in coming days or weeks.
The expedited hiring comes as thousands of Washingtonians are facing unemployment because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Numbers released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Labor and the state Employment Security Department showed that that 133,464 new claims for unemployment benefits were filed with the state during the week of March 15-21, a more than nine-fold increase over the previous week.
The state agency has been averaging between 13,000 and 25,000 phone calls every day into its claim centers, spokesman Nick Demerice said. The first week of March, it was between 1,400 and 2,500. He said that during business hours, the agency’s website has averaged 3,000 concurrent users every day since last Tuesday and that in the past two weeks alone the website had 50% of the total active users of all 2019.