Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Sunday, December 16, 2012

TDCJ: No Plans To Change TDCJ's Physical Agility Testing Program

By Doug Glass, Backgate Website

With rumors of changes coming, we have the latest on the truth behind all these rumors. Rumors circling the state regarding the TDCJ's intention to increase the qualifications to pass it's physical agility testing given during pre-service and in-service  have been found to be just that at this point. Rumors. In an email from TDCJ's Public Information Office sent to the Backgate, Jason Clark stated that there are no immediate plans or conversations underway about changes to the current  TDCJ Officer P.A.T program. Does that mean that changes still won't happen in years to come? Who knows, but for now you guys are safe. But get ahead and start a work out program just in case. It can't hurt.

PTSD in Corrections

By Bryan Avila, Backgate Contributing Author

For those of us that are in this line of work know that we have a perverted sense of humor. With the things that we have to deal with on a daily basis, how else can we cope if not with some type of humor. But do we really know how this job really affects us? Have we ever really thought about the possibility that PTSD may be an issue?

I am going to ask you to put in order from lowest to highest who is more likely to suffer from PTSD and compare your results after. No cheating and let’s see how you do.

1. Corrections
2. NYPD Officers (post 9-11)
3. Fire Fighters (post 9-11)
4. Civilian Population
5. Emergency Management Personnel
6. EMT
7. War Time Military Personnel 

Now if I was a betting man, I’d bet that you put down civilian population with the lowest and wartime military as the highest. You would be correct with the lowest. The civilian population currently has a PTSD rate of 3.5%. Wartime military has a PSTD of 12-20% (that’s up to 1 out of every 5 members of our military!) NYPD officers have a rate of 7.2%, firefighters are 14.3%, EMTs are 14.1%, Emergency Management personnel are 13.2%.

But for corrections in the US is 27%... Let that sink in for a minute. 27%. Want to see it from a different perspective? Let’s try this one then. One (1) out of every 3.7 people working in corrections is suffering from PTSD.

The Desert Waters Correctional Outreach conducted a first of its kind (in the US) research study regarding PTSD in US Correctional Professionals (uniformed and non-uniformed).

Their results showed that the most common symptoms were anger (82%), numbness (60.4%), fear (57.9%), helplessness (51%) and indifference (50%).  How about how it affects other parts of our lives? Depression (53.8%), sleep difficulty (40.9%), digestive problems (35.3%) and obesity (36%). And folks, these numbers are representative of if you experienced the symptoms within the last 30 days.

Would it surprise you to find out that the average number of missed days from work within a year for these staff members was 15.21 days? How about 7.24 doctor’s visits within a year? Or 2.44 medical conditions that they have?

Those numbers are just staggering. Did we ever think that it would be this high? Yes, we knew that we go through some of these but most of us blow it off as just part of the job.

It is not a matter of being too proud to ask for help. Stress, relationship problems, anxiety and satisfaction with life are all affected as well as a result of what we go through.

The Employees Assistance Program is there for a reason. Many of us have heard about it but really don’t know what it is all about. If you are not sure, let me give you the cliff notes version of the cliff notes version: 24/7/365 days someone will answer the phone. Available to you and your immediate family. Have teens? Teen helpline just for them. Confidentiality concerns? The only people that will find out you called are the ones that YOU tell. The agency will never find out unless you say something. Marital problems, depression, whatever…they can help. And the best part: FREE

If you work for the State of Texas, their number is 866-862-5972. If you work in another state, find their number, program it into your phone and make sure you know it is there. You may have a friend that needs it later on.

If you want to read the research report, here you go:

Editor's note: and  Backgate Website Contributing author, Bryan Avila started working as a Police Officer in 1994 while attending Norwich University in Northfield, VT. In 1999 he began working for the Vermont Dept of Corrections while still working as a Part-Time Police Officer. In 2007 he left public service until 2009 when he began working for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.  - Note; the views expressed within this article are opinion and do not reflect those of  the TDCJ (Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice) in any way.



Texas Prison Homicides at 10-yr high

American-Statesman Staff 

As statistics go, the news inside Texas prisons seems good: Violence is down, fewer weapons have been found, sexual assaults have dropped. Even the use of pepper spray is down from last year, and that usually means more calm inside the slammer.
But one number is way up: Eleven convicts have been killed this year inside prisons, the most since 1997, when 10 prisoners were killed. Last year, just three such homicides were reported.
Prison officials say the near quadrupling of the murder total appears to be an anomaly without a single cause — a deadly uptick that neighboring states say they haven’t seen, though they have seen increased violence overall, which Texas has not.

See the entire story by clicking HERE

Monday, December 10, 2012

Oil Field jobs still booming, TDCJ units near Huntsville now at risk for losing staff to better paying jobs

 By Lance Lowery, for the Backgate Website

 5,000 new permits were issued for drilling in the Eagle Ford Shale. The drilling area has expanded closer to East Texas prison towns by expanding to Grimes, Madison, and Leon Counties. All these counties border highly populated prison counties (Walker Co and Anderson Co). Oil field companies are already setting up shop in Navasota home of the Pack and Luther Units.

The labor force in these areas is already exhausted and TDCJ is already dangerously understaffed with over 740 officer short in the Huntsville Region. Oil fracking has already overwhelmed TDCJ's labor force in Beeville, Kennedy, and now in West Texas, where the Smith unit is only 52 percent staffed. Rumors are spreading that the Smith unit is shutting down cell blocks and shipping inmates.

TDCJ and Texas politicians continue to ignore the states economy as the Eagle Ford drilling inches towards areas next to Huntsville (Walker Co) and Palestine (Anderson Co), two of the most prison populated areas of Texas. The Huntsville Region is experiencing a correctional officer shortage of over 740 officers at a time of year when officer recruiting is usually up.

TDCJ leadership is playing with fire downplaying the staffing shortages and should be screaming for help from the state politicians. With the massive prison expansion in the 90's, many experienced officers with be facing retirement soon.

Texas will have a surplus of over $9,000,000,000 this next session and can easily permit correctional officers a reasonable and competitive pay increase. With competitive pay, this may keep more experience from leaving due to retirement and the expanding energy sector.

Montgomery County south of Huntsville is also experiencing a large expansion in their energy industry with Exxon Mobil relocating there world headquarters on a new 300 + acre campus. Several other companies are also relocating to the area. TDCJ can expect further employee fallout unless competitive pay is implemented.

Lance Lowry
AFSCME Local 3808
Texas Correctional Employees

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Speaking Out ?

 What are the top 5 biggest issues you would like to see TDCJ correct in 2013 ?Let em' hear it from the horses mouth.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Senate Criminal Justice Committee chairmain speaks to the Backgate about TDCJ staffing woes

John Whitmire
By Tonya Peters, Backgate Website

The Backgate, as well as several other sources, have been talking about the current staffing shortages within the TDCJ that have created safety and overtime issues all over the state for months. Millions in paid out overtime dollars and serious safety issues for staff members who are now required to do more with even less. Senator John Whitmire, Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chair who frequently weighs in on TDCJ issues in our forum, stated to the Backgate today that he has long been in favor of increased staffing and raising pay to attract more applicants. Whitmire told us that he needs help from all of us in making that become reality.

"I share your concerns on the TDCJ Corrections Officer shortage and have been very vocal about it.  I have pushed for improved benefits and pay in the past and will do so again this session." Said Whitmire. He went on to say " Keep in mind I am but one member and will need the support of the majority of members as well as state leadership.  I encourage each Correctional Officer to reach out to their Representative and Senator." 

We encourage everyone out there to take a minute to either email or call your state Senators and other Reps and let them know your concerned. You can find your districts Senate member by clicking HERE

And also find and contact your district state Rep by clicking HERE