By Peter O'Dowd
Rawlins, WY – The doors are unlocked and the cell blocks empty. A new building at the state penitentiary in Rawlins is ready to house up to 176 inmates. But a staffing shortage has left the space empty since spring.
For now, the department of corrections uses the new building as a training facility until it can hire the staff it needs to watch over the inmates.
For lack of a better word, it's taxpayer dollars being wasted every day that it's empty, says spokesman Monte Thayer.
Warden Mike Murphy says he needs about 30 officers to staff the building. He says he has 15 in training now, but it takes about nine weeks to complete the class. Murphy says he cannot predict when enough officers will be hired.
It's really important we keep what we have open and operating safely before we even think about opening another part of the institution, Murphy says.
Meanwhile, Wyoming has had to ship about 500 inmates out of state. Murphy says many of those will return home when the building opens.