New prison unit hiring

By Wayne Bryan Published January 5, 2012 at 3:01 a.m.
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— When the Arkansas Department of Correction opens a $61 million special-needs facility at the Ouachita River Correctional Unit in Malvern this month, it is expected to create 98 jobs in Hot Spring County.

Shea Wilson of the ADC office in Pine Bluff said the department plan was to have 175 positions budgeted for the facility, but many of the positions will be filled from the Diagnostic Unit in Pine Bluff, which will be closed after inmates are transferred to the unit in Malvern and elsewhere around the region.

“I am told 77 [diagnostic unit] employees have chosen to transfer to the Malvern unit,” Wilson said. “That leaves 98 jobs that are open to people in the area.”

ADC Director Ray Hobbs said his staff has been meeting with the Pine Bluff unit’s employees since late November to explain the options available to them, in order to make the transition as easy as possible for existing staff.

Some of those moving to the Malvern unit will remain in the Pine Bluff area, and the Department of Correction will provide a shuttle bus to the Ouachita River Unit in Malvern. The shuttle will be free for the first year.

“This will be a great opportunity for our employees to work in a brand new facility, which is the first of its kind in the country,” Hobbs said in a statement released by the department. “No one will lose their job.”

The department’s contracted medical provider Corizon will also relocate staff to Malvern and will be able to use the shuttle. The company said 48 positions would be moved and were expected to be filled by Pine Bluff employees.

The special-needs unit of the correctional facility on Walco Lane in Malvern has been under construction since 2006. The addition will house 744 inmates and include a 72-bed hospital and a 40-bed special services area.

The special-services area will include a barracks for the shelter living program that is provided for elderly, chronically ill and acute-illness inmates, Wilson said.

Once it is fully operational, the Malvern until will house 1,690 inmates.

After the transfer, the unit in Pine Bluff will close because the department does not have the money to operate both facilities, Wilson said.

“The new state-of-the-art facility will cost less to operate than the older unit,” she said. “The long-term goal is to renovate the old diagnostic unit and make it a greener facility.”

“Most of the hires will be for correctional officers, and there will be training courses. We always train our own,” Wilson said.

Administrative positions are also available. Information about the positions is available by calling (888) ADC-JOBS.

Staff writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at (501) 244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

Tri-Lakes Edition Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at 501-244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.