Thursday, February 23, 2012
Major understaffing in Region IV - Numbers revealed
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.