Christine Stuart file photo

Despite a hiring freeze, Gov. M. Jodi Rell announced Tuesday that a new class of 125 prison guards will begin their training on Aug. 14.

“We must ensure that public safety is not compromised in any way,” Rell said in a press release. “We also owe it to these dedicated officers to make sure they are not short-handed.”

An estimated 425 Department of Correction employees participated in the state’s early retirement incentive program and left state service on July 1. Last week leaders of the Correction Officers union said the addition of 125 new officers is appreciated, but still leaves them understaffed.

Luke Leone, president of AFSCME Local 1565, has said the class of new prison guards means there are about 300 fewer officers than there were at the beginning of the year.

Last week the prison population was about 18,814, down from an all-time high of 19,875 in January 2008.

Union officials said overcrowding is a factor in the safety of the guards. Leone and other union officials said that many of the inmates are still sleeping on gymnasium floors and in other unconventional spaces. Such unsecured areas that make prison guards’ jobs more dangerous, he said.

On Monday the General Assembly overrode Rell’s veto of a bill that establishes a permanent committee to monitor inmate assaults on prison guards and staff.

Rell’s veto was overridden by a vote of 131 to 10 in the House and 33 to 3 in the Senate.