Douglas County Board members are hoping that money will fix a variety of problems at the county jail.  The Administration Committee has "approved advancing" the current pay scale in the hopes of solving some of the situations currently faced by the correctional facility.

Staffing is the general concern - both in terms of filling positions and in retaining employees once they're hired.  According to an article in the Superior Telegram, "Douglas County faces critical staffing shortages in the jail".

In regards to the open positions, Douglas County Administrator Ann Doucette explains:  "[The jail] basically [has] 24 health, certified jailers trying to cover the shifts of 36 people".   This leads to a tremendous amount of hours worked per person.  That article in the Telegram details the fact that many jailers are putting in more than 80 hours of overtime in a two week pay period.  That correlates to some jailers working at their job like they're working two full time jobs.

That's why the county is considering raising the rate of pay by a range of $1.20 to $1.38 per hour - depending on the position and qualifiers. The aim would be to attract more applicants.

Nick Cooper - TSM Duluth
Nick Cooper - TSM Duluth

In advance of the proposal, Douglas County's Human Resources staff surveyed other counties across the state about pay scale and retention practices in their jails.  The results demonstrate that Douglas County isn't alone with being short-staffed with jailers.

Another issue facing the Douglas County Jail is long term retention.  Doucette shared that "[w]hen you look at who's left in the jail, they only have five people that have been there over three years".  The cause of that turn-over is a combination of pay scale and the overtime hours.  Jail Lieutenant Stacey Minter shared that "often when people leave jail employment, they're not staying in the field because they're burned out and looking for better hours, even if it means earning less money".

And for critics of a pay raise, consider this:  Douglas County budgeted $125,000 in overtime dollars for the jail operations in 2021; already  this year that cost is "closer to $325,000".

County officials have also tried thinking outside of the box this past year, too in terms of recruiting new employees.  They recently sent out postcards to people "ages 21-50 recruiting for open positions in the jail and dispatchers in the emergency communications center".

Douglas County Sheriff Department cop car in Superior, WI
Nick Cooper - TSM Duluth

So what does someone working at the Douglas County Jail earn?  That can vary from position to position, but the Telegram suggests that if the proposed pay raises go through, Jailers earn from $22.11 to $25.10 an hour, while Jail Sergeants earn from $25.47 to $28.91 an hour. That's "still less than the pay scale for jail staff in Carlton and St. Louis County" in Minnesota.

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The proposal to raise the pay scale at the Douglas County Jail goes before the full County Board for a vote at their meeting scheduled for October 19.

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