HAGERSTOWN, Md. (DC News Now) — The need for more correctional officers in local prisons has become a critical public safety concern in western Maryland.

The state is increasing efforts to fill open positions. About a quarter of the 8,000 jobs in the system are vacant.

Corrections officers are eligible for retirement after 20 years of turnover in the system is higher than in most private sector organizations.

“We have a great retirement package,” Tara Nelson with the Department of Public Safety and Corrections, said. “It gives our officers other career options after serving with our system.”

Maryland is stepping up its onboarding process. Nicole Stotelmyer, regional field recruiter for the state’s Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, said recruits are put into a six week training program.

“We teach them everything they need to know. They are never going to be alone and we are aware of concerns our recruits have being new in the job,” Stotelmyer said.

Being a corrections officer can be as rewarding as being a police officer, fire fighter or serving in the military, Stotelmyer added.