Smith County looks to high school students for help with jailer shortage

Students can earn over $43K a year upon graduation
Smith County looks to high school students for help with jailer shortage
Published: May. 3, 2023 at 9:29 PM CDT
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - The Smith County Jail is looking to high school students for relief when it comes to a shortage of jailers.

The worker shortage is a problem being felt by a variety of industries, but with the Texas Jail Commission requiring one jailer for every 48 inmates, jails have no room for compromise.

“Where we’re really hurting right now is in the jail,” said Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith.

To help alleviate the shortage, the Smith County Jail has launched a first-of-its-kind effort in the state of Texas. It’s a program through which high school students can train to become jailers after graduating. Sheriff Smith says it’s a great opportunity for those wanting to go into law enforcement.

“Some of my best patrol deputies came from the jail,” Smith said. “It’s where they learn to talk to the inmates without being out on the street and in a controlled environment. They learn their jargon, they learn how they try to manipulate, and it just makes them better patrol officers and later detectives or wherever they want to go. It’s a good stepping stone for that.”

Students are already being interviewed at Tyler ISD’s Career and Technology Center for the first year of the program. Upon graduating in the coming weeks, they’ll attend a three-week jail school at the Smith County Jail. They’ll then take the state exam and become certified jailers.

“We had to think outside the box and that’s what we came up with,” Smith said. “And I think it’s going to end up being a very good program. It’s going to be good for the community and it’s also going to be very good for us.”

Come next year, Tyler ISD’s Career and Technology Center will offer training on its own during the final semester. That means unlike this year, students won’t have to attend summer jail school before taking the state exam. They will have already attended the training required while still in high school.

Jailers in Smith County can make over $43,000 a year starting out. Upon getting an associate degree, jailers can also be reimbursed for tuition plus an increase in pay.