TDCJ staffing issues have been front and center in the media within the past few weeks, and a Smith Unit employee even recently ruffled Adminstrative feathers when she went on a local Lubbock TV station speaking out on dangerous TDCJ staffing levels. Issues with mandatory overtime, and dangerous working conditions of TDCJ staff members statewide due to shortages have also discussed. So just how short is TDCJ statewide as of this month ? Well we may never know. The Backgate submitted a formal open records act request for current information on staffing levels and overtime usage on some of the states most understaffed facilities, to include the Smith Unit.
TDCJ answered with a denial and a notice that stated that the request was forwarded to the Attorney Generals Officer for review as they (TDCJ) were disputing the release of the information. As strange as it may seem, the Backgate has requested and received the very same requested information on numerous occasions in the past from the TDCJ open records office. The information requested is indeed releasable under the act and should never have been referred. By law, any state agency that is asked to provide open records can ask that the Texas Attorney Generals office limit or block information based on certain issues in the law that protect certain types of information. This information however is not covered. We believe that the denial is based on retaliation by the agency for our coverage of the Michelle Lyons "constructive termination" and lawsuit waged against the agency. It only prolongs the release, and makes the agency appear to be hiding the facts on the current issues.
The Backgate has been fortunate enough to have been able to pick up several great Texas attorneys over the years and have referred the issue to them for resolution. We also plan to address Legislators along with the media on the motives that the agency may have for refusal to release the information.
What do they really want to hide ? Are agency employees in more danger then first thought ? Stay tuned, it ain't over yet.