Staffing issues have prompted the Wyoming Department of Corrections to move some prison inmates into county jails and ship 240 more to the Tallahatchie Correctional institute in Mississippi.
The out-of-state transports happened Wednesday and Thursday. Both transports took place without incident, the DOC announced in a Thursday statement.
The county jails to which DOC is sending inmates are the Sublette and Lincoln County detention centers.
These moves are due to staff vacancies in the prison system, the statement says, adding that inmates will stay in outside facilities until staffing improves.
“Inmates will be returned immediately as vacancies approve,” the statement says.
Stephanie Kiger, DOC public information officer, told Cowboy State Daily in an email last month that the department’s staffing shortages are most acute within the ranks of corrections officers. The DOC has 1,023 approved and funded positions, and 196 of them are vacant, Kiger wrote.
For the past year, DOC’s staff retention rate has remained above 84% because of “numerous retention efforts,” Kiger continued, adding that DOC is doing “everything possible to recruit and retain staff.”
But there’s not enough interest, she said.
“We are simply not receiving enough applications for correctional officers, food service workers and maintenance staff,” Kiger wrote.
What Happened Last Time
The Tallahatchie Correctional Institute is a private facility in Mississippi, and DOC has sent its own there before.
In February 2019, Wyoming offender Charles Edward Jones died by apparent suicide in that facility.
Jones was 38 years old and serving a life sentence without parole following a 2010 sentencing by a Laramie County judge for first-degree murder and aggravated robbery with a weapon.
When prison officials started sending inmates to the Mississippi facility in 2018, the year before Jones’ death, it was due to staffing and space issues in Wyoming prisons, according to media reports from that time.
When Jones died, 89 Wyoming prisoners were in Tallahatchie Correctional Institute.
Media reports also said the private prison’s cost was around $70 a day per inmate, $60 cheaper than Wyoming’s daily prison board.
Clair McFarland can be reached at Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com.