Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Immimigrant Employees on work visas, is it safe ?
The question was posed back in 2009, and at least one State Senator questioned it's practice. Over the past 18 months, TDCJ seems to have seen an influx of newly recruited Correctional Officers from overseas that have been hired to fill the current gap of over 2,100 Officers statewide. Many of these newly hired staff members were hired on temporary work visas and English is their second language. Can this have an impact on Officer safety on prison facilities? That question has been raised by employees who have experienced it firsthand. Records show that the majority of newly hired recruits possessing work visas come to TDCJ from Africa. Although any help is welcomed help when your 2,100 Officers short, their ability to speak English seems to have been overlooked during the hiring process.
We received information from TDCJ in regards to the issues presented on the subject. As of December 31st 2011, there were 26 Officers employed by TDCJ on temporary work visa status. Of those, TDCJ states that the " majority" are assigned to facilities in Region III. When questioned, a TDCJ spokesperson stated that there is currently no policy regarding employment of Officers that speak English as a second language, or even how well they communicate.
"It's not a race, or cultural issue, it's a safety issue based on the inability to communicate and understand the English language." stated a veteran Darrington Officer. That statement was echoed by another Correctional Officer at the Wynne unit in Huntsville. Staff members don't only feel uneasy about the fact that they are unable to communicate issues such as assaults or disturbances, but also the background checks, or lack of. " How can we do complete and effective background checks on employees from other countries when there is no verifiable criminal history?" emailed another TDCJ employee.
There are no rules or policies that deal with these issues, and employees fear that it will take a serious incident or a death to bring the issues to light.
TDCJ employees are not alone. State Senator Kel Seliger also has continued concerns about recruiting from other countries to fill state correctional jobs. We will be speaking to state Legislators, as well as Senator Selig about these issues in coming weeks. What are your thoughts ?