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King County is Interested in Establishing Its Own Corrections Officer Training Program

Become a corrections officer in King County (CRedits: King County)

King County jails face a huge challenge with 108 corrections officer vacancies, leading officials to consider creating their training program due to a long waitlist at the state academy. King County requires 503 corrections officers for full staffing with two adult jails in operation.

The state’s mandatory academy, run by the Criminal Justice Training Commission (CJTC), has a lengthy waitlist, creating a bottleneck for recruitment of new officers.

This issue and other hiring challenges prompted King County officials to explore the possibility of establishing their own corrections officer training program. However, CJTC leadership does not support this idea.

King County jails (Credits: Crosscut)

King County Prosecuting Attorney Leesa Manion raised concerns about the waitlist being a “choke point” for hiring new corrections officers. In a letter to the Washington Attorney General, she questioned whether counties have the legal authority to conduct their own training programs. Attorney General Bob Ferguson has yet to provide an opinion on this matter.

Manion argued that while state law grants CJTC the “sole authority” for law enforcement training, the statute for corrections officer training lacks this language.

The law mandates corrections officers to undergo training complying with CJTC standards, leaving room for counties to operate training programs within these standards.

The CJTC’s 10-week training academy is mandatory for corrections officers in Washington. Recent demand surge post-pandemic has led to lengthy waitlists, impacting hiring for King County and other jurisdictions. Despite legislative appropriations adding more courses to the schedule, King County believes more classes are needed for long-term staffing solutions.

Leesa Manion (Credits: KNKX)

The shortage of corrections officers has resulted in extended work hours, with officers often working 16-hour shifts. This has led to concerns about safety, burnout, and inadequate conditions for incarcerated individuals. The staffing shortage has also led to restrictions on who can be booked into local jails, impacting the justice system’s operations.

King County has expanded recruitment efforts to address these challenges, offering hiring bonuses and incentives for new recruits and lateral hires from other jurisdictions. However, restoring full staffing remains a top priority for the Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention in King County.

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