Editorial: Investing in your people is an investment in community

Jefferson County Commissioners recognized a problem: after recruiting local men and women into their profession and then paying to train them and get them certified, they are losing prison guards, jailers and officers to higher-waged positions in neighboring counties. 
“We have consistently seen very high turnover rates at the prison and the sheriff’s department due, in large part, to salary,” County Administrator Adam Brett said. “Over a 12-month period from spring of 2016 to spring 2017, the prison had a 52 percent turnover rate among correctional officers. The sheriff had a 26 percent turnover rate among the deputies and jailers.”
Brett said that after comparing salaries for these positions with surrounding counties, he found that Jefferson was indeed one of the lowest paying in the area. 
We applaud the county’s recognition of the men and women we hire to both keep us safe as well as safeguard the offenders our criminal justice system has seen fit to separate from the general population. Just because they have broken the law and are being punished for it, does not mean we have washed our hands of them. No, it is important that we make sure we staff these institutions with professionals who will both strictly enforce the rules and yet do so in such a manner that respects the human dignity of those incarcerated. Jails and prisons are not places to put people to forget about them, they, in the best circumstances, should aim to rehabilitate.
How can we expect to staff these positions with the quality officers, guards and jailers we need, without offering them reasons to remain?
“If you were running a business, how successful do you think your business would be if in one year you had to replace half of your staff?” Brett said.  
As of July 1 the county has instituted a $1-an-hour raise for all county correctional officers, jailers and sheriff’s deputies. We appreciate the county’s move to address this issue. 
Ours is a poor county, one of the poorest in the country when it comes to median incomes and similar statistics. Our population has dropped almost every year of the last decade. Our local elected officials will tell you that it seems fewer and fewer tax dollars return from the state and federal government to help balance the needs of our community with cost of providing services. There are no new dollars. Each one spent here has circled our local economy countless times. 
It is encouraging to have leaders who are willing to invest in their people, who understand that by putting dollars in their employees’ pockets they are helping to keep local people local, reward dedication and strenthen the local economy in the process.