The Broome County Sheriff’s Office hired 27 new correctional officers in response to the facility’s staffing crisis.

The new hires were selected after Sheriff Fred Akshar acquired the position in January. According to Akshar, the responsibility came with a shortage of 40 positions in the Broome County Jail’s Corrections Division, causing current officers to work “seemingly endless overtime” and undergo “unavoidable strain and burnout.” Akshar explained that the quantity of officers needed is based on standards provided by the New York State Commission of Correction — a government agency responsible for the regulation of correctional facilities and local jails in New York state.

Besides allowing the jail to follow state regulations, the additional staff will benefit from the expansion of opportunities for those incarcerated within the jail — including the reopening of “regular programs,” Akshar said. One way the Sheriff’s Office will improve their support, according to Akshar, is by committing to “Responsible Reentry,” which was explained as providing resources to current inmates to prevent additional offenses after release.

The new administration also plans to partner with local organizations, including the Southern Tier AIDS Program, the Broome County Council of Churches and Mothers and Babies, to provide additional support.

In addition to new correctional officers, the Sheriff’s Office hired former Broome County Sheriff’s Department Recruiter Charles Woody, who now serves as the jail’s director of community engagement and recruiting. Akshar expressed praise for both the officers in the Sheriff’s Office and the new hires, who have participated in “intensive field training and education” prior to beginning work in the jail.

“I’m incredibly proud of how the men and women of the Sheriff’s office from both the Corrections and Law Enforcement divisions stepped up and worked together as one team to help find and vet quality candidates to fill a dire need,” Akshar wrote in an email. “Our collective success has a direct impact on our community, because the more dedicated, hardworking and community-minded people we have in the Correctional Facility, the better, stronger and safer our community as a whole will be.”

Akshar also described the unique group of new hires selected to fill the vacant positions.

According to Akshar, 36 percent of the new hires represent people of color, with seven new officers being female, three of which are Black. These three officers are the first Black women hired at a Broome County law enforcement agency. The new sheriff explained how the diverse group of new officers will benefit the facility.

“These outstanding men and women represent a renewed commitment to excellence in the Broome County Corrections Division, a renewed commitment to the safety and well-being of our incarcerated individuals and those charged in their care, and a welcome respite for the hardworking men and women of Corrections who have been short-staffed and overextended for so long,” Akshar wrote.

Ariana Brown, one of the 29 correctional officers hired by the Broome County Sheriff’s Office and a graduate student at the Master of Business Administration (MBA) program, said it was her oldest brother, a correctional officer at Fishkill Correctional Facility located in Beacon, New York, who inspired her to fill the position — which began on March 20. Brown described her role as a correctional officer at the Broome County Jail.

“I oversee day-to-day activities of inmates, assuring the safety of them and others,” Brown wrote. “I also enjoy conversing with [the inmates] because they are people too, and I tell everyone [if] you can actively communicate, you’ll be golden.”

Positions are still available for qualified applicants, according to Akshar, who encouraged those seeking employment to email for more information.

Jacey Ruisi, a sophomore double-majoring in English and psychology, expressed feelings of optimism toward Akshar and the sheriff’s office for choosing this particular group of new hires.

“It is great that as soon as the new sheriff joined, [Akshar] already implemented new growth,” Ruisi said. “Representation is so important, especially in a department where an unbiased attitude is especially relevant.”

Emily Wu, a sophomore majoring in business administration, said she hopes the hiring of new officers causes further improvements in the jail.

“I think this change shows that the correctional facility is working toward creating a better environment for its employees,” Wu said. “Not only would this help employees maintain a better work-life balance, but incarcerated individuals would be in better care.”

Editor’s Note (3/30/23): A previous version of this article stated that 29 new officers were hired instead of 27. The article has been updated with the correct information.