Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Region IV understaffing becoming expensive, dangerous.
For the first time in six months, staffing levels in Region IV have bottomed out to the point that Officer safety may become a bigger issue then first thought. TDCJ reports that back in August of 2011 that Region IV was down 551 Correctional Officers. As of January 2012, that number has ballooned to 710 and rising. TDCJ also reported that in August of 2011 that the state paid $604,000 that month for overtime just in Region IV. In January 2012, that number jumped to $992,504 for the month. That number is also expected to rise above the $1,000,000 mark within the next 60 days an insider reported. There have already been two consecutive months within the Region that the monthly expenditures for overtime have surpassed the million dollar mark according to state records.
The Backgate received word that employees were being forced to work at least one of their regular days off each week in mandatory overtime. Today TDCJ acknowledged that that was a true statement, but it only affected the Connally and McConnell units. The release also went on to say that voluntary overtime was still at the forefront. TDCJ did not comment on accusations by employees that Officer safety was being placed on the back burner as units dangerously short of staff were still operating at 100% even though no one was there to run them. The numbers of vacancies in the Region, as in all Regions, do not account for employees calling in sick, or out on extended sick leave status. The numbers of staff actually reporting for work are even less then represented by the open vacancies. Staff reports claim that Category one positions, those positions where someone must always be there to man it as per agency policy, are going unfilled as staffing is spread thin to carry out daily tasks. TDCJ could neither confirm or deny those accusations.
The Connally unit in Kenedy holds 2,848 offenders from G1-G5 status. G5 being high security. Connally unit staffing plans call for 557 Correctional Officers. The McConnell unit in Beeville holds 2,900 offenders and their staffing plan calls for 564 Correctional Officers. McConnell also houses G1-G5 status offenders in addition to an Administrative Segregation area. No unit based staffing numbers were included in the report from TDCJ but those two units are said to be bearing the brunt of the Regions under staffing issues. When questioned as to why staffing levels may be so low in the Region IV area, Officials stated that oilfield jobs were on the rise along with other manufacturing in the area and that TDCJ was in direct competition with those industries.