With very low numbers of women seeking employment, the Illinois Department of Corrections in western Illinois has organized an area recruitment outreach group to meet with people in communities and find qualified candidates to apply.
This week, representatives from the Department of Corrections and the Jacksonville Correctional Center spoke to Jacksonville officials, expressing their concern in the low number of women being employed and explaining the issues it creates.
Jacksonville Correctional Center Warden Marvin Reed said, having been previously employed at Stateville Correctional near Joliet, he felt that Jacksonville needed a higher percentage of women correctional officers.
“After working in those facilities, you have to know that women are the pulse,” he said. “It’s very easy for a woman to calm a situation down before a man. We have different posts for women. Visitors that come in, females that need to be searched. Men can do that but we prefer not to do that. … Overall, women in a facility helps keep the balance.”
He said the Jacksonville facility has just eight women employees to cover the three daily shifts.
Joni Stahlman, IDOC central screening official, said the outreach effort is also seeking to hire minority employees as well, but finding more women to work at the three facilities in western Illinois was important.
“We have visitors that come all day, all afternoon, at all three facilities, so it makes it very hard to manage that part of the facility when we don’t have women to staff those,” she said.
In order to be employed, candidates must take a test and go through a day-long screening process. If accepted, candidates must also attend a training academy.
“People have questions about working with male inmates,” she added. “It’s intimidating, and that’s why I don’t think we get women wanting to work with us. But we put them through training, we try to make them comfortable and we try to give them the skills they need so they can work in the environment.”
Forrest Ashby, coordinator of the outreach program, said he hoped for an aggressive search for candidates among women and minority groups. He said, after approaching the city, he hoped to reach out to community service organizations and other groups to get the word out about the candidate search.
“What we’d like to lead to is a formal informational session down the road,” Ashby said. “We know that there are qualified individuals in the community and we want to reach them and give them the opportunity.”
Cody Bozarth can be reached at (217) 245-6121, ext. 1223, or on Twitter @JCnews_Cody.
Clarification (Updated at 6:10 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 13):
Male corrections officers play a significant role in screening female visitors to correctional centers, but Department of Corrections rules do not allow male corrections officers to search female visitors.