Billboard ads for hiring Corrections staff are banned in Wisconsin; that could change

By: - May 18, 2021 3:50 pm
empty turned off bill board with the sky behind it

Photo by Pawel Czerwinski on Unsplash

A quick Google search shows 89 postings for hiring at the Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC), primarily for correctional officers and across a wide range of recruitment sites.  The department’s website dedicates a page to various potential DOC careers. But there’s one place in Wisconsin where you will not see an advertisement to come work at the DOC — on a billboard.

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Rep. Jesse James

According to Wisconsin statute, recruitment via billboards is prohibited for Corrections, no matter how severe staffing needs may be. A bill by Rep. Jesse James (R-Atoona) would eliminate the current prohibition, and the memo seeking other sponsors already has bipartisan backing. Sponsors in addition to James are: Reps. Calvin Callahan (R-Tomahawk), David Bowen (D-Milwaukee), Rep. Patrick Snyder (R-Schofield), Michael Schraa (R-Oshkosh) and Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine).

James’ memo explaining the need for the bill states, “Position vacancies have become increasingly common in Wisconsin’s Department of Corrections facilities. The shortage is causing current staff to fill shifts, resulting in increased overtime.”

A staff person in the James office says he is not certain why it was banned in the first place or when, but adds that 15% of Corrections positions are currently unfilled. He also says that the federal government — which has institutions in Wisconsin — can recruit correctional officers or other staff using a billboard. 

DOC spokesman John Beard, “I think DOC would explore using billboards if allowed. It’s my understanding other, similar agencies – jails, federal correctional facilities – have used them.”

A similar bill was introduced last session, but did not make it through the Senate before the pandemic cut the session short.

The memo cites a Wisconsin State Journal article that put the cost of overtime in the Division of Adult Institutions at $60 million in 2020, a $10 million increase from two years prior.

James also states that no other state agency is expressly barred from using billboards to seek staff for their facilities or agencies: “This bill would simply bring the DOC in line with every other state agency.”


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Melanie Conklin
Melanie Conklin

Melanie Conklin is proud to be a native of the state of Wisconsin, which gave humankind the typewriter, progressivism and deep-fried cheese curds. Her several decades in journalism include political beats and columns at Isthmus newspaper, the Wisconsin State Journal and other publications. When not an ink-stained wretch, she served time inside state, local and federal government in communications. She is excited to be back at the craft of journalism as Deputy Editor of the Wisconsin Examiner. It’s what she’s loved ever since getting her master’s degree in journalism from the UW-Madison. Her family includes one husband, two kids, four dogs and five (or more) chinchillas.