The Arkansas Department of Correction today announced the closure of two of its smaller units because of staffing concerns.
The correctional officers at the temporarily closed Cummins Modular Unit in Grady, a 300-bed minimum-security male facility with 27 correctional officers, and the Tucker Reentry Center located in Tucker, a 124-bed minimum-security female facility with 25 correctional officers, will be transferred to larger units with greater needs.
Director Wendy Kelley said in a memo provided to the Board of Corrections that “staff levels have reached a level that requires immediate action,” in justifying the decision.
In the memo, Kelley said those units receiving transfers have large gaps in staffing: The Varner Unit in Grady has 97 correctional officer vacancies, the Maximum Security Unit in Tucker has 57 correctional officer vacancies, and the Tucker Unit (sometimes called “Little Tucker” to distinguish itself from the Tucker Max Unit) has 57 correctional officers vacancies.
She added that, overall, 560 of the 2,484 correctional officer positions are vacant.
Director Kelley said she’s informed wardens at other prisons and re-entry
As we wrote last month, the ADC has struggled to retain guards despite a pay bump during this summer. Thirty-eight percent of the correctional officers hired by the Arkansas Department of Correction in 2017 have left the department. Former guards told us that the problem wasn’t the pay, it was the culture.
According to Kelley, the pay in overtime to guards is unsustainable.
“We cannot ask staff to continue to work [mandatory] overtime at the current rate,” Kelley said in the press release.
You can read the full memo here.
UPDATE (4:00 p.m.)
ADC said that a unit has been closed before because of staffing.
In Jan. 2012 the Diagnostic Unit in Pine Bluff was closed after the Ouachita River Correctional Unit was built — staff were transferred to the new ORCU. The former Diagnostic Unit was reopened in 2015 as a Barbara Ester Unit.
Payment for correctional officers moved will be decided “once the individual transfers are finalized,” said Solomon Graves, ADC spokesperson.