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