|Updated: 5/07/2013 8:34 am
||Published: 5/07/2013 8:21 am
The continued overcrowding at the David L. Moss Detention Center in Tulsa County is taking its toll on detention officers.
Detention officers are often having to work overtime to keep up with the demands of an overcrowded jail.
Each pod inside the jail is supposed to have a maximum of 96 inmates, but as of Monday most housed more than 100.
"I'm always on guard," detention officer Sally Matthews said. "You just always have to be on your toes."
Matthews has worked as a DO for close to a year. She says she loves her job, and appears to be well-liked by inmates, even though she is responsible for controlling so many people at once.
"It makes the noise level louder, which can make your stress level go up," she said. "But that's when you make the pod run at your pace, not the inmates' pace."
But as the number of inmates grows, the number of people on her team is constantly changing.
"There is a very high turnover rate for the detention officers," Matthews said.
The jail struggles to maintain staffing levels of one DO for every 36 inmates at all times.
"Not very many can mentally take the job," Matthews said. "It's not physically hard. It can be stressful."
At an average starting salary of about $24,000 a year, compensation presents a challenge.
"We're not the highest-paying industry in and around Tulsa," Maj. Shannon Clark of the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office said. "So, we have to compete with that as well."
Plus, the hours are long.
"For 12 hours a day they're locked in a unit with sometimes more than 100 people," Clark said.
Filling gaps when officers are out caused overtime pay to skyrocket, so jail administrators announced detention officers will go back to eight hour shifts starting in June.
Even though the inmate population is so high, Matthews takes it all in stride, determined not to let it affect how she does her job.
"I come here, make sure they stay safe, stay firm, fair and consistent with each and every one of them," she said.
The David L. Moss Detention Center has a recommended capacity of about 1,650 inmates. Maximum bed space is 1,714, though the Tulsa County Commission approved the purchase of 200 new portable beds Monday night, with the expectation that the inmate population could approach 2,000 during the summer. It costs roughly $59 per day to house an inmate.