Expanded jail could lock in job security for hundreds
BLEDSOE COUNTY, TN. (WRCB) -- Southeast Tennessee has become home to Florida's Christine Miller and New York's Sue Contreras.
But how can you live, where you can't make a living?
"You start people at $7.25 an hour, you can't," Miller says.
Contreras hasn't had a full time job since June. No part-time work since August.
"I'd actually thought about going back to New York, to find work," she says.
Both are hoping that jail, will keep them here.
"Crime's not going away," Miller laughs.
Both have driven more than half an hour to Dunlap, for a Department of Corrections Job Fair, to apply for the more than 400 jobs available thanks to the expansion of the Correctional Complex in Bledsoe County.
The $208 million facility will house 1,444 inmates, most of them in medium security. Three hundred beds will be designated maximum security.
The complex will offer more than two dozen different, specialized jobs, according to TDOC Human Resources officers Melanie Wilson.
"We need carpenters, cooks, nurses, maintenance workers, you name it," she says.
Miller is eyeing openings for secretaries and pharmacy technicians.
"The latter I can learn, the former, I've done," she says. "They start you off at about $10.74 an hour, which is pretty nice. More than I was looking for."
More than 300 employees will be corrections officers, in direct contact with inmates. Wages will range from $11.38 to $18.21 hourly, or from $23,676 to $37,872 yearly, depending upon experience.
"I've always had a rapport with people and their problems," Contreras says. "I've been a cab driver, a caterer, a secretary for a judge. If I'm eligible for it, I'm applying for it."
"We've had a good response," Wilson says.
Especially at the job fair in Sparta, Tuesday.
But the fair in Dunlap attracted only sparse attendance in its first two hours.
Finding it was a job itself.
TDOC staged it in the Training Center of Dunlap's Municipal Building on Rankin Avenue. Applicants entered through the back door. But no signs were posted to indicate that. The blinds remain closed on the front windows. And the front door remained covered in paper.
"You don't have to apply face-to-face," Wilson says. "You can start filing your applications on-line, via governmentjobs.com. You only have to give us your basic information once. It stays stored in your on-line account, which you can update every time you apply for a different position."
TDOC is limiting how long it solicits applications for certain positions. Job-seekers should check the web site and update their accounts frequently.
TDOC has scheduled more job fairs; in Dayton March 27 (Tuesday), and in Pikeville March 29 (Thursday).
The final fair is expected to attract many employees of the Taft Youth Development Center. More than 150 people could lose their jobs as part of the facility's slated closure.
"We've had Taft people come in for interviews," Wilson says. "We've hired some. As for a preference, I have no idea about any of that yet."
The expanded jail is expected to be finished in January 2013. Hiring could commence this July.
Miller is counting the days.
"Because I don't have health insurance right now and I need it," she says.
Contreras simply wants to get a job 'locked-up.'
"People are getting desperate," she says. "Sad to say but that's good news for me, that there's so much work opening. In a jail."