Thursday, February 23, 2012

Major understaffing in Region IV - Numbers revealed

 By Marcus Williams, Backgate Website

Over the past few weeks we have been examining the serious staffing issues that are crippling Region IV prison facilities. Hundreds of hours of mandatory overtime, $600,000 to $1,000,000 a month in overtime expenditures, and potential Officer safety issues. As more Correctional Officers leave state employment, or retire over the next few months, it's only going to get worse. Staffing West Texas prison units has always been a challenge, but over the past few years it has seemed to become almost impossible. TDCJ released information that reveals the agency to be short just over 2,000 Correctional Officers statewide. Many of those vacancies originate from Region IV.

TDCJ numbers released to the Backgate last week show that two prison facilities in Region IV stand out when it comes to staffing issues. The Connally unit in Kenedy is only 61% staffed and has 205 Correctional positions unfilled of the available 527. The McConnell unit in Beeville is 68% staffed and is minus 168 Officers of the available 531. Both Garza East and West facilities are next on the list with both units posting numbers of 82% staffing or roughly 60 Officers short each. Region Iv tops TDCJ in negative staffing with 710 vacant Officer positions as of last week. Region V is next in line with 690 open positions for Correctional staff. TDCJ has contributed it's staffing issues in West Texas to the return of the oilfield business in that area, tempting employees and competing with larger salaries. Employees working on other Region IV units have been used on Connally and McConnell on a mandatory bases as well. Some driving from as far as the Dominguez unit in San Antonio to fill the empty positions.

 The Backgate took note of the situation after dozens of employee emails poured into the website over the past month complaining of mandatory overtime, and disciplinary action as result of refusing to work the long hours with what seems to be no relief in sight. Many employees were curious as to why those facilities were not locked down as a safety precaution instead of running at 100% open traffic for the Offender population when the units were so dangerously short handed to deal with any potential emergencies that may arise. To that question, we have not received any information. We will be speaking with State Senator John Whitmire about some of these issues over the next week, and provide you with that information as it comes in.

12 comments:

  1. I Work at McConnell & from what I see, we are not on lock down because the offenders rights are more important than staff safety. Also I see more Co's leaving because we are over worked so much & treated like shit, we have to be at the unit at least an hour early to go through the shake down on us & from what I understand we are all considered Dirty Co's & we are all treated Dirty... & that came from the Major's mouth.. I'm about fed up Myself, everybody is trying to abandon that damn place... & Btw... We are NOT all Dirty...

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  2. I agree, I also work at McConnell and I believe we would keep more CO's if Huntsville told all the rank to keep their mouths shut and hired a Public Relations Officer to deal with interacting with employees. If moral is at an all time low it is the rank that sets the pace.

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  3. Last time I checked, you have to be at the airport to catch a flight early to go through security check points. What you fail to realize is Correctional Staff, not necessarily you, created this problem. Taking short cuts, which violates policy, that leads to a homicide, suicide, or staff assault are all variables we control.

    Now we have 700+ cameras on the unit at a cost of $ 2million plus to help ensure we do our job right. That's sad that we ask to do a job but don't have the integrity to follow through and do it by policy. We have a Lt and Sgt. get arrested for assaulting an offender who assaulted a staff member (leave the vigilantly stuff at home) because they don't realize the 700 cameras are working. A lot of our staff lack character and the 700 cameras will lead to more officers getting the boot. I'd rather work short handed with staff doing the job right than with those that lead to a sorry work environment.

    We constantly blame supervision but I'm an adult in an adult correctional facility. We can't pick and choose when we want to play adult and then start crying like babies when we get in trouble.

    Its hard to compete with the oil field money, I agree with and a raise for cost of living would not hurt either. Until then, I'm not going to stick out my fellow co-worker because I know what its like to be assaulted and it seemed like a life time before help arrived. I'll be at work 6 days and I'll take my 2 days off. We already work 4 on 4 off which up until recently was half a year of actual work.

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    1. Yeah we have $2 million to spend on cameras, but the intercom's don't work, Hell have the damn phones don't work, Body alarms don't have batteries and don't work... It is not about crying, it's abouttaking care of the bosses that come to work & do their job... I'm not blaming all rank, but I know for a fact we have 2 dirty Sargents, on both cards& everytimei get to work shake my damn cause they are still there... And several bosses have reported there asses...

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    2. 10:37, I have no problem showing up for work early, but if you are going to require me to go through something work related (pat searching) then I should be paid for it. Simple as that.

      But it is much like the comp time issue, the state does not care. I don't mind that holiday time lapses; I wouldn't mind even if vacation time lapsed, but to have time for which I was actually on the unit, doing my job just disappear because I couldn't get approved time off? No.

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    3. Sounds like someones got a mouth full of something.The problem is, their is no fear in the pen.Let a convict slap me cameras are not, i'll get mine.

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  4. You're not on the job getting searched. If we got paid while getting searched then most would slow buck or lie about their time. Remember, most of the staff are good people but others have no integrity which would mess it up for others. As far as the maintenance issues on equipment, your maintenance dept needs to get on most of that stuff.

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  5. Face it, nobody wants to live out there. W. Texas is an absolute shit-hole and the state was stupid for ever building out there. Those facilities should be closed and relocated. I work at a facility in N. Texas and we're completely staffed, with a years-long waiting list of people waiting to come here. Hate to say it but prisons need to be built in areas where people want to live and the creation of a local workforce is a possibility.

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  6. 06:23, If you are doing something your employer requires, you are on the job. Same way a restaurant employee would be paid to wash his hands before making your food. DOL has ruled on this many times against private employers, and if enough TDCJ employees will document the abuses occurring everyday at the front gate, maybe things will change.

    04:53, West Texas is not a bad place, and working for TDCJ my dollar goes much farther here than if I were working down around Huntsville/Houston. I do agree that the West Texas units will always be difficult to staff.

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  7. I still disagree. Sorry CO's created this problem. I wish the agency would take to another level and have drug dogs on the enterance points of the facility too.

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  8. Yeah because we know that a non-security/non-uniform staff member has never been caught bringing stuff in.

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