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Scrambling to fill unwanted correctional jobs, the county approves advertising contract

Thursday, May 11, 2023 by Seth Smalley

Travis County just granted the Sheriff’s Office a substantial chunk of money to help remedy its vacancy problem.

On Tuesday, the Commissioners Court approved the transfer to the Sheriff’s Office to pay for a $483,000 contract with Palladium Media a San Antonio-based advertising agency to attempt to fill the substantial number of vacant positions.

According to discussion at Commissioners Court last week, the Sheriff’s Office has over 140 vacant positions that it is having trouble filling.

The contract has been in place for about a year, according to Travis Gatlin, a county executive with the Planning and Budget Office. As part of the $483,000 sum, $250,000 is earmarked to continue the existing contract and $233,000 is to implement a pilot in which Travis County would reach out to other areas, such as Bexar County, San Antonio, Waco, Temple, Laredo and El Paso.

“I recently spoke with leadership from all over Texas and learned that everyone (law enforcement) is facing the same (staffing) challenges,” said Major Craig Smith of the Sheriff’s Office, who had just returned from the Texas Jail Association Conference. Smith added that some solutions are working in parts of the state.

“We are starting to see success. When I say success, I mean that we are hiring more corrections officers than we’re losing. The seesaw is moving in the other direction.”

Commissioner Brigid Shea said she’d be interested in hearing how the marketing group would use the money to fill the gap in hiring.

“I’d just be interested to hear how this works, because I know we’re trying a lot of creative ways to get more people in the door so it’d be good to get an update,” Shea said.

“I know that the process was really hard and clunky in the past, and we just lost a ton of people because it wasn’t a very easy process to get through,” Shea said. “We really need people to come and do this work. And I think actually, as jails go, I think we have a very, very well-run jail. Each time I’ve been out there it seems to be a remarkable operation, even though it’s a difficult setting.”

On the marketing efforts, TCSO Information Officer Kristen Dark said TCSO is trying a new technique.

“On this latest batch we’re putting out, we have a button at the bottom that says ‘apply now.’ And it moves them to an interest page that our recruiters can see,” Dark said. “And so whenever they put that information in, our recruiters can contact them immediately and get to know them.”

Photo made available through a Creative Commons license.

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