In an effort to address a shortage of guards and reduce overtime costs, the Vermont Department of Corrections announced Wednesday that security staff at the state’s six prisons will begin working 12-hour shifts next month.

The longer shifts are already in place on an emergency basis at two Vermont prisons, Northeast Correctional Complex in St. Johnsbury and Southern State Correctional Facility in Springfield.

The change from eight- to 12-hour shifts will take effect at the other four facilities on August 28, the department said. Security staff will begin the new schedule with five days on, two days off, but will eventually will move to seven days on, seven days off.

“Department leadership studied our staffing situation, talked with our staff throughout the state, and pored over possible solutions to our most vexing and important challenge: creating a stable, engaged, and motivated workforce to achieve the Department’s mission,” said Commissioner Nicholas Deml.

The department said the new staffing plan calls for pay increases for security staff, as well as incentives for workers to refer potential new employees to the department. The department also announced it will conduct a market analysis of security staff pay.

“We believe this plan best serves our staff and builds toward a stronger system in the long term,” Deml said.