In Georgia, prisoners easier to find than prison guards

What's the worst job in America?

Quite often, the job of "reporter" is on lists compiled by people who aren't trying very hard .

I don't know much, but I do know it gets worse than typing on a company laptop drinking company coffee in a nice office on a comfy chair.

Almost anyone worth talking to has a "worst job" tale to tell. Most of mine include farm work.

Example: While putting in fence posts through a swamp my cousin got bit by a snake and my uncle, whose idea of healthcare was 4 a.m. shots of wake-up medicine, said, "If it's poisonous we're too far from a hospital to save you and if it's not then we got work to do."

Everyone survived.

The most objective way to deduce the least desirable careers, I think, is to look at those combining low pay, physical danger and lots of open positions.

A common job that matches the aforementioned criteria? Prison guard.

Nationally, correctional officers make a median wage of about $44,000.

Federal prisons have trouble hiring and keeping workers. I recently read a USA Today article that said some prisons are so short of staff they have nurses, cooks and office workers pulling guard duty.

A nurse who sometimes patrols the solitary confinement wing at a Tallahassee prison said, "We get a radio and set of keys, and we don't know which keys fit which doors."

This type of staffing may explain how inmates at a federal prison camp in Atlanta can venture out to buy food, drugs and alcohol . There are only one or two guards to watch over 500 inmates in several buildings, the AJC reports.

Chart showing Georgia's prison population circa March 2018. Click to enlarge. (Georgia Department of Corrections)

In Georgia, correctional officers make less than $30,000, among the lowest in the country, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Most people aren't trying to lock up a job in prison.

"As of March 6, 2018, the security vacancy rate stands at 13.89 percent," the Georgia Department of Corrections wrote me in an email. "While maintaining low vacancy rates is a challenge across corrections systems throughout the nation, we are diligent in recruitment and retention efforts to reduce this vacancy rate, including weekly job fairs and hiring events. Ensuring low security vacancy rates at our facilities is a priority for the GDC and we are confident in our ability to maintain secure and safe facilities with our current staffing."

Georgia has less trouble finding prisoners. Information provided by the GDC says state facilities are designed to hold 34,287 inmates, but there's 37,538 being housed (109 percent of capacity).

There's a little more room at county jails, which have a capacity of 5,032 inmates and currently house about 4,800 (95 percent).

Private prisons in Georgia are full too: There's space for 7,975 and 7,900 beds are filled (99 percent).

The obvious solution to the prison staffing problem? Fewer prisoners, of course, but too few politicians can get elected saying that.

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