[caption id="attachment_9595" align="aligncenter" width="600"]<a href="http:\/\/pocahontastimes.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/sites\/25\/2015\/08\/SS-Denmar.jpg"><img src="http:\/\/pocahontastimes.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/sites\/25\/2015\/08\/SS-Denmar.jpg" alt="DENMAR\u2008TUBERCULOSIS HOSPITAL opened in January 1939. A wing to the building was completed in 1952. In March 1957, Denmar was converted to a state hospital for the chronically ill. It opened in 1993 as Denmar Correctional Center and now houses 232 inmates. S. Stewart photo" width="600" height="400" class="size-full wp-image-9595" \/><\/a> DENMAR\u2008TUBERCULOSIS HOSPITAL opened in January 1939. A wing to the building was completed in 1952. In March 1957, Denmar was converted to a state hospital for the chronically ill. It opened in 1993 as Denmar Correctional Center and now houses 232 inmates. S. Stewart photo[\/caption]\r\n\r\nSuzanne Stewart\r\nStaff Writer\r\n\r\nAs a way to understand the daily operations and needs of Denmar Correctional Center, Delegates Denise Campbell and Bill Hartman recently took a tour of the facility.\r\n\r\n\u201cWe want to be sure to do what we can to help, because my main concern is the safety of the staff who work in the corrections facilities and to ensure we\u2019re keeping our communities safe,\u201d Campbell said. \u201cWe actually went on a full facility tour, which was amazing. I was really impressed with how it was almost like its own little community there.\u201d\r\n\r\nThe main concern both delegates have is the turn-around rate of correctional officers. At this time, Denmar has 12 officer positions open and too often, officers stay for less than a year before they move on to a higher paying job.\r\n\r\n\u201cWe talked a little bit about the length of time between someone putting in an application and getting their first paycheck,\u201d Campbell said. \u201cIt does take thirty days or more and sometimes, we\u2019re hearing up to forty-five days before you actually go through that whole process. Usually you have to work a full month before you get your first paycheck. Now, how many people who need a job can wait that long?\u201d\r\n\r\nThe beginning salary for a correctional officer is $22,500, which hasn\u2019t changed in several years.\r\n\r\n\u201cWhenever someone\u2019s pay stays stagnant for that period of time, it\u2019s really a hardship on your family,\u201d Campbell said. \u201cThen there\u2019s also the concern that people will start out at a prison and then will get enough training that they can actually go and work at a federal facility and make more money. You can\u2019t blame anybody for that, so I think we, as the legislature and the governor\u2019s office, we need to look at \u2013 are we paying a fair wage and are we paying enough to attract and retain them because we know it is a whole lot cheaper to retain somebody than it is to train and find somebody new.\r\n\r\n\u201cIt\u2019s a process we definitely need to work on and that\u2019s something I know Delegate Hartman and I are going to work on,\u201d Campbell continued. \u201cWe recognize there is an issue in the prison system to be able to attract and retain correctional officers. Those jobs are the important ones.\u201d\r\n\r\nAs they prepare for the next legislative session, Campbell said she and Hartman are looking at ways to increase the correctional officer pay.\r\n\r\n\u201cThe front line staff \u2013 which is the correctional officers \u2013 we need to be sure we are paying them a fair wage,\u201d Campbell said. \u201cThat would be the first thing I would address because if we don\u2019t have the correctional officers, then the ones that are there are working long hours. It\u2019s very tiring on them. It affects their ability to be alert. I think it leads to safety issues, so I think the first thing we have to do is be sure that we have the officers that we need, but in order to do that, we have got to pay them.\u201d\r\n\r\nThe visit to the facility helped Campbell realize the importance of correctional officers and to give support to the facility in general.\r\n\r\n\u201cThe visit that Delegate Hartman and I had was so beneficial and so informative and so impressive,\u201d she said. \u201cI understand that they have issues we\u2019re seeing across the state even though it might not be as large as another facility, but their percentage of employees and officers \u2013 there\u2019s an issue there.\u201d\r\n\r\nWarden Mark Williamson says Campbell is right on the money when it comes to what Denmar needs the most.\r\n\r\n\u201cBeing able to keep people and retain people is our biggest concern,\u201d he said. \u201cIt\u2019s still a good job at $22,000 a year, $22,500, but when you\u2019ve got to drive an hour to work, and then you\u2019re trying to raise a family, it cuts into the milk and bread you\u2019ve got to put on the table.\u201d\r\n\r\nWilliamson began working at Denmar in 1998 and has seen a lot of turnaround in his time.\r\n\r\n\u201cIn August 2014, there were thirty-four people that were hired and twenty-six of those are no longer with us,\u201d he said. \u201cA couple of those were people who retired, but the majority of them found other jobs. They went to work in Virginia working construction. They went to the federal system making another $10- to $20,000 right off the bat for doing the same thing.\u201d\r\n\r\nDenmar Correctional Center is a medium security prison, housing 232 male inmates. All residents of the facility are within four years of release, whether it be the end of their sentence or for parole.