Saturday, June 23, 2012

Part of Connally unit prison taken "offline" after chronic staffing shortages- staff spread thin, working dangerously.


By: Michael Williams, Backgate Website

This week 376 inmates at the Connally unit prison will be bused out to other facilities after what TDCJ calls issues with staffing shortages. The Connally unit which houses 2,800 inmates, has been in the red for months as indicated by a past Backgate Website stories. Many within TDCJ blame the boom in the oilfields in west Texas for the staffing shortages, but employees we spoke to blame the staffing shortage on the lack of direction of the agency and the way it treats it's hired help. For months now, the McConnell unit in Beeville has also been dangerously shorthanded. TDCJ now buses in Officers from all over the state to staff the unit. Officers are not given a choice, and are mandated to make the trip at least once per week to see that the unit still functions. Many of those Officers complain that they are treated badly by McConnell administrators when they get there, compounding the problems.

 Many Officers claimed that their safety was an issue as TDCJ used less to do more on these problematic units. "We were still expected to run recreation, do church, and other mass movements with the basic number of staff members to staff these areas." stated one Connally Officer we spoke with. The TDCJ " Priority one" positions were shown to be filled on paper when in fact they were not. That created a safety issue in staffing the prison where the allocated number of Officers were not present but were shown to be present. An act that is seen more frequently around the state as many units are now dangerously short handed.

Lack of pay. Bad working conditions, and desperate treatment from the administration are still the issues that top the list of reasons staff members use during exit interviews as they resign, or retire from state employment. Can we blame the job market, or job satisfaction for the shortages ?

Below is a clip of a story we did back in January 2012;

" 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."


See these past Backgate stories regarding staffing at Connally;

http://www.thebackgate.org/2012/01/is-lack-of-correctional-staffing.html
http://www.thebackgate.org/2012/03/tdcj-officers-from-all-over-texas.html
http://www.thebackgate.org/2012/02/major-understaffing-in-region-iv.html

We predicted this months ago!.....What unit is next ? And what safety issues are being foregone for employees to staff these units?...

21 comments:

  1. The so called leaders of TDC have NO idea what a leader is. In over 16 years of service I have never seen anyone above the rank of warden inside of any unit not counting the admin area. Any leader knows if its not checked it may not be done or done like it should be. Sitting in some staff meeting isn't gonna get it done and that is how most wardens seem to findout how the unit is being run. Wardens rarely come on the main unit other then to run to some office to hold commity. Leadership is a joke in TDC. One of the most important jobs of a leader is training. Leaders train the people working for and with them to get the job done. Poor co sitting on the fire hose never sees anyone with any knowkledge come to the building because the LT and SGT are running chow. Has the Livingston ever been on a unit other then to pose for a picture? Its strange when the people that run TDC come in for eight hours and leave. I am sure one or two could come in and run chow. They think because they don't get paid overtime its eight and hit the gate. As a leader you work until the job is done.

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  2. I don't know why lawyers are not advertising their assistance for employees. Most of all units are gold mines for law suits. There are plenty of hungry sharks out there. All the state cares about is a name to fill in the blank. As long as you have at least a ged, can pass a simple back ground check for criminal history, and a simple test that 6th graders can pass you got the job. Then what they dont tell you is the DE-benifits you get with the job...and those you find out the years you work for the agency and that is if you can tolerate the job that long. Some years back TDCJ had an idea to place a hiring booth inside of malls. Now who goes to the mall the most? Yeap thats right teenagers. So Tdcj would be targeting teenagers and young adults who are nieve to the cruelties of how people really can be...both criminal and administrative people that is. These people could be easily manipulated and could be potential offenders because of their nieveness. But it was okay with Tdcj. But as far as i know the plan feel through my area and i can't attest for others. Maybe one person in Huntsville that had some sense thought this to be a bad idea and convieced all the people that had 4, 6, or even 8 year degrees that tbis was a bad idea and encouraged it with milk and cookies. But hey this is what SMART people with degrees gives the taxpayers. So this article is by far of any surprise.

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  3. The lawyers need to be offering their services to the inmates as well. The inmates are deserving of being treated better than animals, but their civil rights are constantly being violated. The treatment of inmates by TDCJ employees is horrendous and barbaric. I have been completely appalled by the stories.

    Here's the beginning of the problem, and you have to start at the bottom of the ladder. The prosecutor's in just about every county in Texas are looking for nothing but a boost in their career, a notch in their belt, they're sure not looking for truth when getting people convicted. Proof of this: Google "wrongful convictions in Texas!" So then there's the guess at how many innocent men & women are still sitting in a county jail or Texas prison. Lord I can only begin to imagine. The County these inmates sit in, until transfer to a TDC unit, make money off every inmate they have. Then they eventually get transferred to a TDC unit and the State of Texas then begins to makes money off of every incarcerated individual, so don't let them fool you, with all their talks about budget cuts, etc! And I'm not even including all the money county jails & TDCJ make off the family & friends that contribute to commissary accounts (where they charge exorbitant prices) and the phone programs (where guaranteed they get a kick back from that also). It is nothing but a money making scam. While doing an internet search the other day I ran across a guy that is in TDCJ with a life sentence. For what you ask? Credit Card Abuse!! Life for Credit Card Abuse! ...WTF... I thought life sentences were supposed to be for murderers and such! At the rate we're headed there will be no taxpayers paying anything toward a TDCJ Budget because we'll all be locked up for some bogus reason with exorbitant amounts of time given...I'm just saying...

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    Replies
    1. So you say that inmates are treated unkindly, It's obvious you have never worked, or been inside a prison to actually know what goes on...thought so.

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    2. and this person really believes in Google?. Personally after 20 years in the system Offenders DO NOT need Commissary, CNN, FOX, ESPN etc. I see 18 and 19 year olds come in everyday Claiming they cant work, They don't want to work, Have no respect for anyone or anything and you expect us to feel sorry for them. If you spent half the time not sparing the Rod and getting their hearts right while growing up I wouldn't be listening to them complain about a Hot water pot that they feel is a right (actually a privilege)being broken by them and not being replaced instantly.You have no clue about what the Correctional Staff have to endure on a daily basis and have to grin and bear it, to keep you safe from the predators, pedophiles, etc that you so claim to love. TDCJ makes minimal on the Offender telephone System, they actually lose money on this. Life, Better check his priors

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    3. The daily grin?? Yes, I agree about it being tough at times, but your a State certified babysitter not a patrol police officer and unless you work at the Garza East or west you dont see no new people daily being 18 or 19. Yes there are some good CO's that I got to know and still talk to, but even they admit there isnt much professionalism coming from the rest.

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    4. I hate Tdc for what I went through (as a CO) but inmates get treated....Very well to what they should be treated. Prison is easy after first year as a offender.

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  4. Read a travel card from most offenders and if they were wrongfully convicted then they got away with so much other stuff they belong ther anyway .I agree the prices in the commassary are to high,close it down, its a shame to see a man getting money from his family because he cannot live within the law. I also bet there is much more to the story of vredit caed abuse and a life sentence. You stated that TDC was such a money maker so I guess we could make it if everyone was locked up.

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  5. I have been with TDCJ for almost 10 yrs and I'm retired Army. In the Army we always were do more with less and TDCJ is no exception . No matter whether you worked day or night you were still expected to get the job done no matter how many short you are for your shift. Because supervisors jobs are on the line if we don't and we hear about it in turn out. As the saying goes shit rolls down hill. I've been doing overtime at Connally UNit since April of 2012. We are not bused in we provide our own transportation and we come in from around the state to help the units that are short of staff. True the overtime money is good but the continous long hours definately take a toll on a person. Try driving 2 or 3 hours to get there and then do a 12 to 16 hour shift because they want you to stay because some employees call in or just don't shoow up for work and they need the coverage. For some of us its not about the money its about helping a fellow co worker in need. Yes inmates can and will be a pain in the ass at times but granted not all inmates are like that. Those who have never worked behind the walls and gates have clue as to what goes on inside . They think we are cruel and unjust to the inmates that we are there to gaurd. When is the last time the state who govern us has given us a decent pay raise for what we do. Some officers I have talked with have only received 2 pay raises in 15 plus yrs. So no wonder emplyees seek other jobs where money and conditions are better. Thank you for listening and I'm off my soap box now.

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    Replies
    1. Hooah! It's a job and if you can't or won't do it, then don't. It's the type of profession that entices the brave, not the faint at heart. Somebody has to keep those locked up who would otherwise terrorize our loved ones.

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  6. I worked at the McConnell Unit and let me say I worked w/some pretty good officers. I left for the oil and gas field, for several reasons. Back in March 2012 Warden Monroe came to turn to out to give us a motivation talk, the talk went let this, “I didn’t move my family here because I am waiting for other Wardens to retire, so I can get out of this place, and if you are not getting a break you need to pack a your lunch and eat at you assigned post”. This told me that he didn't care about the bosses or anyone else but himself.

    Yes, the hours are long where I work now, but I get a check 2 or 3 times a month, something the State of Texas needs to think about if they want to keep employees, and also that $3,000.00 bonus the new bosses are getting, what about the one who are still working, what is the State of Texas going to do to keep them from leaving.

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  7. Where o where to begin. I have split opinions bcuz one, I have worked at mc connell & two, cuz I have family members in the system. Both officers & inmates are treated wrong. Regardless of why an offender is there, that person is still human & deserves to be treated as one... But the offender also has to tree the officer with respect. Mc connell has ALWAYS been short staffed & those who did go to work got taken advantage us. That $3000 sign on for a new officer with no experience is ridiculous. What about the ones who have stuck it out. They deserve a bonus to stay & not leaving like those who hace left. A farm needs to fully be staffed and mc connell will never be. The rank there doesnt follow procedure so then the staff & offenders dont either. If policy & procedure & respectable pay was in affect maybe theyd be fully staffed & not have all the commotion happen as it has. As to the offenders, they didnt hurt u & if ur gonna give them a messed up day because your cruel then that job isnt for you because treating them wrong for your own selfishness is uncalled for. Ur now just as bad as them. God made us all, no one is better than the next; & both officers & offenders shouls be treated humane.

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  8. & I have been with tdcj for 11 years so I know what policy & procedure is

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    1. It is not just Connally and McConnell CO's facing mandatory OT. The CO's at the Garza Units have mandatory OT too. If the TDCJ says otherwise. the
      agency has lots of semior staff with pants on fire,

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  10. I worked at TDCJ Connally Unit back in 04 and I will call him Sgt J had his wife working there who like alot of employees there were no better than the inmates. After I reported her for basically hanging out with inmates and hugging them. The support from the people who are suppose to have your back.... Don't... Criminals wearing professional uniforms instead of white.

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    Replies
    1. I have a cousin that locked up there a lot of thing been gong on i will like to known if you can help me with thing .he been locked up since 1999

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  12. I worked at TDCJ Connally Unit from 2003 to 2013 and I have to say so much has changed. I really can't say for the best either, with the cameras they have installed all over the unit which is suppose to be for the welfare and safety of the officers are only being used against the officers. Yes, I understand you have your corrupted officers but as well you have officers trying to do their jobs and to have Lt. or Capt. just sitting their watching video feed to catch officers doing short-cuts to get the job done in a timely manner are either giving them disciplinary or getting them fired because of the actions they took to get the job done. If I'm not mistaken the Lt. and Capt.'s tell us officers in turn out that we need to get the job done before the next shift comes in. Most of the time they say " I don't care how it gets done it needs to get done." Using the side door was always helpful but them telling us that we couldn't use them anymore just made it more work for us officers especially times when the offenders are on lock down, having to carry the bucket of juice,tea,water up three rows and back down going to the next section and repeating it. Not just that but also having to take over another pod because of the shortages we have. One rover for two pods having a Sgt. running the desk it is just ridiculous. Over in the closed custody they are suppose to have two rovers and are only with one because of the staffing. It use to piss me off knowing we were short handed with no one running a turnout or b turnout with no one working om gate and still running chow like nothing was wrong. I confronted the Lt. on the issue that day telling him why we couldn't just rack them up and feed them in the in house he said that it was more expensive to feed them in the house than to run chow. I said yeah and when a riot breaks out because of his decision who's going to be the one to blame. I just went on my way back to pod, which I was even surprised they gave me a break that day knowing we were so short handed. I've seen so much working for TDCJ that Officers that have been working for TDCJ more than ten years are so use to the old ways that all these new regulations that are being put into place are making officers more caution of how they do their jobs. Because back then we took short cuts to get the job done, it wasn't illegal but more of in the grey area.. where it wasn't wrong but wasn't right either. You couldn't get fired for it, just put it that way. When I first started TDCJ I'm not going to lie there were officers that were rude to me and most of the time it was because they felt i wasn't going to last due to the fact that i was a female. After a few years in I found out they had made a bet on me and a few other females whether or not we'd last working there. I was in shock that officers, I mean officers, could do such a thing. I mean yeah inmates maybe but officers come on now, wtf. Well I showed them up and lasted longer than anyone expected, but got tired of all the BS and finally put in the towel. I earned my respect and still keep in touch with officers, Sgt's, Lt's, Capt's. All I have to say is that if you go in and do your job and give the offenders was is needed, nothing more and nothing less, help your fellow officers out where it is needed then you have nothing to worry about your doing your job. You will gain the respect from officers as well from offenders but of course there are the haters that will be jealous and well you can't do nothing about that, that's just life in general. And it is true that sh*t rolls down hill, so if your doing your job and everything is done the way it should be done physically as well as paper wise then you have your a*# covered so they can't pin anything on you, i don't care if it's the Lt, Sgt, or Capt. you did your job the right way and that is that.

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