Floridians fresh out of high school will now be able to work as correctional officers in prisons and jails, a move aimed at alleviating a shortage of applicants.
Starting July 1, the minimum hiring age will be lowered from 19 to 18.
Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the change into law this week, saying in a prepared statement that Florida is “opening more doors for young women and men to begin an honorable public safety career.”
A legislative analysis found that lowering the age would allow the state to recruit high school seniors to address staffing shortages.
In a statement, Corrections Secretary Mark Inch said he thinks 18-year-olds are up to the task.
“I’ve spent my military career training and leading remarkable 18-year-old men and women, and I am confident in our department’s ability to equip these new recruits with the training and leadership they need,” he said.
The average salary for a certified corrections officer is about $33,500 a year, according to the Florida Department of Corrections. Officers in Broward, Palm Beach, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties are eligible for a $2,500-a-year boost because of the increased cost of living.
A 2015 state study found Florida lags behind other states in pay. For the top 10 largest correctional systems in the country, Florida finished No. 9 with only Georgia paying less.
Twenty-three other states allow correctional officers to be hired at 18, according to the Department of Corrections.
© 2019 the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
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