GEORGIA PRISON GUARD REQUIREMENTS
• At least 18 years old
• High school diploma or GED
• No felony convictions
• Must pass a certification entrance exam
• Must pass a physical test:
Men do eight push-ups and women four in one minute
Men do 12 sit-ups and women eight in one minute
Both men and women run a 16-minute mile
Source: Georgia Department of Corrections
LAFAYETTE, Ga. — It's a job few people want.
During a two-day job fair that stretched across two towns in Northwest Georgia, turnout was low for applicants looking to be guards at Hays State Prison, officials said.
The job fair hosted by the Georgia Department of Labor was to help the maximum-security prison in Trion, Ga., recruit officers to cut down on a guard shortage that has plagued the prison for nearly a year.
Officials are trying to replace 44 officer positions, a staff shortage that spiked in February to the highest level in at least 14 months.
In Summerville, a town with 10.4 percent unemployment, only four people showed up Tuesday at the civic center to pick up an application or speak with a representative from the prison, Department of Labor manager Judy Holcomb said. Turnout was looking better in LaFayette on Wednesday, when 15 people had applied after the first two hours of the fair.
Holcomb couldn't say why turnout was low for a position with a salary listed at $26,754 a year, but she said poor advertising may have contributed.
She said she couldn't speculate whether recent violence at the prison played a part.
On Wednesday, some who picked up applications in LaFayette said they hoped four recent inmate deaths and a rash of officer stabbings were short-term problems that officials have fixed.
David Nelson, a Rossville native, said he wasn't worried, but his family questioned why he would consider taking such a job. Nelson, who was in the military for a year, said he hasn't thought about the risks.
"I don't know if it's ignorance or [being] oblivious to how dangerous it is," he said.
Applicants said the pay was about what they expect. Census figures show the median annual income is $32,000.
The prison has worked to recruit officers, but the number of vacancies has changed little. There were 45 vacant positions in January, and as of Wednesday there were 44 empty spots, Corrections spokeswoman Gwendolyn Hogan said. Records show six officers quit or were fired in January, and February figures aren't yet available.
At the jobs fair Wednesday, 22-year-old Cody Shields said he is applying to work at Hays State because he's always wanted to be in law enforcement and he couldn't find work at the local sheriff's office.
Shields, who has friends who work at Hays, said he's been told the prison is now under control and officers are getting stab-proof vests. "People are saying [the prison] is as safe as it's been since it opened," Shields said.
Joy Lukachick Smith is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Since 2009, she's covered crime and court systems in North Georgia and rural Tennessee, landed an exclusive in-prison interview with a former cop convicted of killing his wife, exposed impropriety in an FBI-led, child-sex online sting and exposed corruption in government agencies. Earlier this year, Smith won the Malcolm Law Memorial Award for Investigative Reporting. She also won first place in ...