Younger correctional officers could soon be headed to jails in Essex County, Massachusetts.
In order to address a critical staffing shortage, the sheriff there is lowering the minimum hiring age from 21 years old to 19 years old.
The new minimum goes into effect Monday. To be eligible, applicants have to be 19 years old as of June 1.
Essex County Sheriff Kevin Coppinger said there are roughly 62 positions open and only 16 enrolled in their latest training academy.
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“We’re at that crisis point. We just have to put it out there and get some folks in here,” Coppinger said.
In addition to extensive background checks, candidates will have to complete robust training. Coppinger said the younger officers will then be paired with veteran officers.
“I know some folks are worried about it. They may think it’s a little young. We share some of those concerns, but we are ready for it,” Coppinger said.
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Ryan Brito of Lawrence said he is interested in applying, despite hearing about corrections officers being attacked on the job in the past. He recently turned 20 years old and said he would consider joining to inspire other young people.
“I think it’s a great thing because if you’re old enough to sign up for the army, you can do this,” Brito said.
The prison population is around 1,000. Right now as many as 20 correctional officers are working double shifts to keep things running.
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