Kansas

Prison guards left out of rising-wage trend in Kansas, and they're leaving the field in droves

  • In this photo taken Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015, corrections officer Cynthia Miller handcuffs an inmate before he is transported from a segregation unit at the Ellsworth Correctional Facility in Ellsworth, Kan. Low wages among Kansas corrections officers are causing many to leave the field, leaving about 9 percent of the positions in the state's prisons unfilled. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

    In this photo taken Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015, corrections officer Cynthia Miller handcuffs an inmate before he is transported from a segregation unit at the Ellsworth Correctional Facility in Ellsworth, Kan. Low wages among Kansas corrections officers are causing many to leave the field, leaving about 9 percent of the positions in the state's prisons unfilled. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this photo taken Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015, corrections officer Kaler Hazen works in a control pod in a cell block at the Ellsworth Correctional Facility in Ellsworth, Kan. Low wages among Kansas corrections officers are causing many to leave the field, leaving about 9 percent of the positions in the state's prisons unfilled. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

    In this photo taken Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015, corrections officer Kaler Hazen works in a control pod in a cell block at the Ellsworth Correctional Facility in Ellsworth, Kan. Low wages among Kansas corrections officers are causing many to leave the field, leaving about 9 percent of the positions in the state's prisons unfilled. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this photo taken Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015, corrections officer Kevin Cranston watches inmates working in the kitchen at the Ellsworth Correctional Facility in Ellsworth, Kan. Low wages among Kansas corrections officers are causing many to leave the field, leaving about 9 percent of the positions in the state's prisons unfilled. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

    In this photo taken Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015, corrections officer Kevin Cranston watches inmates working in the kitchen at the Ellsworth Correctional Facility in Ellsworth, Kan. Low wages among Kansas corrections officers are causing many to leave the field, leaving about 9 percent of the positions in the state's prisons unfilled. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)  (The Associated Press)

Unemployment is down and wages are up in Kansas — except for corrections officers.

They are leaving state prisons in droves because of low pay. It's creating a public safety crisis that legislators will have to deal with on top of plugging a budget hole.

Their starting pay is about 33 percent less than the state's average hourly wage of $20.20.

Their overall wages are about a quarter lower than the national average. The annual turnover rate is up to nearly 30 percent.

Things are so bad that the state is hiring 18-year-olds to manage hardened criminals, despite some prison leaders' misgivings.

Republican Gov. Sam Brownback says he favors higher wages for corrections officers but state spending will be pinched by at least $160 million in the next fiscal year.