Locking down corrections shortages in Utah

A Salt Lake City police cruiser.

A Salt Lake City police cruiser.

SB 162, Corrections Officer Certification Amendments, seeks to reduce the more than 600 law enforcement shortages by reducing the minimum age for candidates to 19. With jails losing staff to higher-paying law enforcement or private sector positions, the bill would reduce the age requirement from 21 years old for certification as a correctional officer to potentially fill those vacancies.

Thirty-two states have jails in which candidates below age 21 can work as a correctional officer. A survey was conducted in agencies allowing hiring below age 21, and there was no reported increased behavioral liability or mental health problems associated with holding the position at a younger age. At this time, the bill would only apply only to jails, not prisons. After a three-year pilot program, if it’s found to have worked out well, legislators could then consider including prisons in the program.

Utah sheriffs expressed excitement at the prospect of being able to access a previously inaccessible group of candidates, provide relief to jails experiencing staff shortages statewide and attract more candidates to the law enforcement field in general.

Safeguards are also being put in place to ensure the safety of those who would be eligible for employment under the program including agency-determined restrictions and extensive pre-service and field training.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Jani Iwamoto, passed both the House and Senate, and was sent to the governor for his consideration.

You can read or check out audio/video of the bill here.