Florida has hired dozens of 18-year-old prison guards in the last six months


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Nearly six months after the minimum age to work as a correctional officer in Florida was dropped from 19 to 18, the state has hired 87 guards who met the lower threshold.

The new minimum age, approved by the Legislature and Gov. Ron DeSantis, went into effect July 1. It was designed to help alleviate a worker shortage in the state prison system, but it remains too early to tell if hiring 18-year-olds will make a significant dent in the ongoing need for more guards.

At the end of 2018, the Florida Department of Corrections counted nearly 2,000 vacancies, department spokeswoman Michelle Glady said in March. The turnover rate for correctional officers last year was 29 percent, Glady said. Corrections Secretary Mark Inch sees the lower minimum age as a new tool.
“By expanding the hiring age for Florida’s correctional officers, we are opening more doors for young men and women to begin an honorable public safety career in our state,” the Department of Corrections said in a statement Monday.

Since July, the corrections department has used social media to recruit younger applicants. The ads offer same-day job offers and emphasize that no experience is needed for the jobs. Tuition-reimbursement programs and starting salaries of $33,500 a year also are part of the marketing strategy.

Another incentive to work at state prisons was announced Monday. Prison officials said they will offer $1,000 bonuses to all new hires who complete correctional officer certification through the department or eligible state colleges.

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