BY MARCIA HEROUX POUNDS
A company that operates prisons and detention centers is increasing what it pays for a job considered one of the worst in America.
The starting pay for corrections and detention officers at The Geo Group has increased to $13 an hour. The pay will rise to $14 in 2020 and $15 in 2021.
The company, based in Boca Raton, has been getting more detention center contracts from the federal government to house illegal immigrants as the numbers crossing the country’s southwest border has swelled.
Geo’s CEO George Zoley said he expects the wage hikes to set help recruit employees. “We recognize the importance of employee pay, working conditions and total compensation,” Zoley said in a news release Monday.
When asked about Geo’s previous minimum wage, Geo spokesman Pablo Paez said he couldn’t elaborate beyond the news release.
Correctional officer jobs are considered one of the worst jobs in America, according to a 2018 ranking by CareerCast. Corrections offers have among the highest injury and illness rates.
PLENTY OF OPENINGS
Geo’s career site, geogroup.com/Careers, lists more than 100 open corrections officer jobs, including those at detention centers.
On jobs site Indeed.com, Geo’s advertising for an entry-level corrections officer requires a high school graduate or equivalent who has some college course work in behavioral sciences or correctional services.
Corrections officers are expected to monitor the activities of inmates or detainees.
They also may be asked to conduct a “shakedown for contraband materials,” be able to work 16 hours within a 24-hour period, as well as overtime, and be able “to handle physical and mental stress associated with working extended hours,” according to the ad.
Laura Rivera, an advocate lawyer with the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights group, regularly visits Geo’s detention centers. She recently said the company’s detention centers are “horribly understaffed.”
Raising the minimum wage has been a controversial issue across the country with political groups urging fast-food restaurants such as McDonald’s to raise their minimum to $15 an hour from about $10.
COMPETING FOR TALENT
In South Florida, JM Family Enterprises increased its minimum wage to $16 an hour in 2015. With more jobs available than job seekers nationally, some employers are raising their minimums to better attract workers.
Christina Donnelly, branch manager of Robert Half International in West Palm Beach, said the staffing agency is seeing employers across the board raising their starting salaries. Some are even offering sign-on bonuses.
“Unemployment is so low, that it’s a bidding war for talent,” Donnelly said.
Geo notes that the average hourly wage for corrections officer at Geo’s prisons and detention centers across the country is $18.30 an hour.
Prime competitor CoreCivic, based in Tennessee, pays its correctional officers from $13 to $24, according to career site Glassdoor, which gets its information from employees. The typical correctional officer makes $17 an hour, according to the site.