Hiring on hold for Grayson prison

-A A +A
By Ben Bomberger, Reporter

INDEPENDENCE — Last summer, the Virginia Department of Corrections announced it would soon begin hiring correctional officers for the new state prison being built just outside of Independence to allow potential employees the opportunity to gain experience prior to the July 2010 opening.

Now — six months later — nobody has been hired and the department of corrections is unsure when hiring may take place.

According to DOC Director Gene Johnson, the department is continuing to work hard towards opening the new prison, including a plan to hire early.

“This will provide interested individuals an opportunity to become corrections officers, complete basic training and gain experience working in a correctional facility prior to the Grayson County opening,” Johnson told The Gazette in an e-mail. “It provides VADOC an opportunity to turn to local citizens for some of the experience necessary to staff a new institution.”

Although initial plans called for around 40 people to be hired last September, the Commonwealth’s budget situation is delaying the process.

“VADOC is a large state agency with a sizable budget,” Johnson said. “The current state of the economy and the Commonwealth’s budget shortfall are impacting corrections.”

Several facilities have been closed, and plans to open other prisons have been shelved.

“VADOC prides itself in supporting its employees,” Johnson continued. “Therefore, the department’s top priority is placing each employee affected by this downsizing.”

That could mean that displaced workers from closed facilities could get jobs in Grayson when the new prison opens.

Because of the continuing questions about the Commonwealth’s proposed revenue, Johnson said the department will wait until the General Assembly adjourns at the end of February to determine how it will proceed.

He expected an update on the status of advance hiring in March.

While the advance hiring is a bit of bad news for locals looking for jobs now, Johnson said it did provide additional time for those interested to prepare themselves for the process.

The minimum qualifications for a corrections officer includes a high school diploma or equivalent.

On top of the diploma, Johnson said a preferred qualification for the officer position at the Grayson facility is the Career Readiness Certificate.

This certificate is awarded to individuals who score a certain level on three assessments — applied mathematics, reading for information and locating information.

• Individuals who do not possess a high school diploma or equivalent should contact the Virginia Employment Commission for assistance. The number in Galax is (276) 236-5105 or in Wytheville, (276) 228-4051. Those interested in obtaining the CRC should contact the Crossroads Institute in Galax at (276) 236-0391.