There is so much concern about the Calhoun County Jail — overcrowding, expanding the facility or building a new one, pay raises for jailers — that one improvement doesn’t end the Calhoun County Commission’s immense task. But any upgrade is worth noting.
On Thursday, the commission gave Sheriff Matthew Wade something he has long requested — pay raises for his lowest-paid jailers. It’s long overdue. New, non-civil service corrections officers will now receive starting pay of $12 an hour, a $2-an-hour increase thanks to the commission’s passing of its $18.5 million 2019 budget.
One of the recurring issues for the Sheriff’s Department has been the difficulty of hiring and retaining entry-level jailers. Working conditions for corrections officers at the county jail are historically difficult, especially at night and on weekends when a handful of jailers are responsible for hundreds of inmates.
We’ve long felt that offering candidates $10 an hour to perform such a stressful job was unreasonable to the candidates and unfair to the sheriff. This increase to $12 an hour is a noteworthy development.
“We are getting some relief there,” Wade told The Star. “We’re not sure why, but we’ll take it.”
And so, we’ll ask: what’s next?
This pay increase doesn’t address the facility’s inherent problems or overcrowding. Those conundrums must be next. We share others’ concerns that an overcrowded and often short-staffed jail is a recipe for violence that would put the safety of both inmates and jailers at risk.
The time has arrived for the commission, state legislators and county leaders to determine the future of the jail. There should be no question that status quo is untenable. It is not acceptable to expect the sheriff to competently and safely operate a jail that is too old, too small and too prone to overcrowding.