Wednesday, August 8, 2012
TDCJ prisons more dangerous as staffing woes continue on
By Michael Williams, Backgate Website
With turnover at 1 in 5,more Officers left the agency on their own in 2011 then any other year records revealed. This had created dangerous safety issues on most prison units statewide say many employees. Staffing plans, which dictate how many Officers are needed to man the many duty posts within a prison, have been cut to the bone. But that doesn't mean that activities don't get done, it means one Officer may now be used to do the job of three. With TDCJ shuffling offenders from the Connally unit in Kenedy, and even the Dalhart unit due to staffing issues, the future still isn't looking to bright for the agency.
With some units hovering at 60-70 percent of required staffing levels, that means forced overtime for employees. Some being required to work 2 of their 3 regular days off just to keep facilities running. The state paid about $7.5 million for 285,000 overtime hours in fiscal year 2011 as shown by TDCJ's own records. Correctional officers statewide make an average annual salary of about $34,880, some $8,500 below the national average, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Not nearly enough to deal with the desparaging treatment from administrators, and some the most violent inmates in the United States.
With employees leaving at the current rate, the agency will be in real crisis within the next year if things don't change. The agency had got to lose the chip they carry on their shoulder, realize it's 2012 and not 1975 and do what they can to keep the good ones. With legislators again asking state agencies to butcher 10% more from their upcoming budgets, not much more fat can be cut at the TDCJ unless it's from the top down.