Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Who would staff new Texas prisons and jails?

As I hear more talk of building prisons and jails in Texas, I keep wondering who would staff these behemoth facilities? The state is chronically 3,000 guards short now but is considering building three new prison units. In Houston, Harris County Commissioners want to increase the state's largest county jail by 50% capacity, but they can't fully staff the facilities they've got now. Meanwhile, other counties are expanding local jails, and new immigration detention centers are going up.

So if you build all these new facilities, will more guards come? As I mentioned yesterday, sometimes the most important questions are the unasked ones, and I seldom hear anyone proposing new jail spending address this question head on.

Complicating matters further, Governing magazine's 13th Floor blog predicts that proposed permanent increases in numbers of US military personnel will make recruiting local police officers (not to mention guards at prisons and jails) increasingly difficult:

Over the past year, it's become increasingly clear that many municipalities are facing a crisis in police recruitment. There are plenty of factors involved -- from low unemployment to changes in the workforce -- but one of the reasons is more and more competition from the armed services, which themselves are pressed for manpower.

That's because cops and soldiers are similar folks. Both groups are disproportionately young, male, willing to accept dangerous careers and comfortable using firearms. As a result, if the military ups benefits to try to recruit more troops, police forces may have no choice but to follow suit.

A commenter correctly adds another reason boosted military recruitment will impact recruitment of police officers and prison guards:
many police officers are in the reserves and when they are called up to active duty they deplete the local police force. Larger departments are better able to handle this than smaller PD's.
I've heard tons of anecdotal evidence that that's happening in Texas.

All the "tuff" jail and prison building proposals touted so cavalierly by those spending other people's money are always discussed based solely on building costs. But the really big items that soak taxpayers in the long haul are things like guard pay, constitutionally required healthcare for inmates, and other ongoing operational costs that stretch out ad infinitum.

If you can't find or afford guards to staff them, does it really matter how much prison or jail space you build?

2 comments:

sunray's wench said...

I was shocked at how many female guards were on duty when I visited the prison the other week. I didnt expect to see more than a couple, but out of around 20 staff, I would say only 4 or 5 were male. And one male guard couldnt have been much older than 18 ~ he barely looked older than my 16 year old daughter!

If you staff male prisons with women and children, you are asking for touble, imo.

COWBOYSLADY said...

I AM SCHOCKED AT THE FACT THAT TEXAS PRISON SYSTEM FINDS MY HUSBAND A THREAT TO THE PUBLIC!!
WHY THEY STILL HAVE HIM IN PRISON FOR 1 DWI HE GOT BACK IN 1998!!
HE WAS NOT INVOLVED IN A ACCIDENT AND NO 1 WAS HURT OR KILLED!! BUT BOWIE COUNTY JUDGE GAVE HIM 10YRS. FOR 1 DWI!!! THE PRISONS ARE FULL!!! WOW!! I WONDER WHY!! THEY REFUSED HIS MANDATORY RELEASE DATE LAST YR.CALIMING HE IS A DANGER. WE ARE NOT GOING TO LIVE IN TEXAS WE HAVE A HOME IN ARKANSAS.. HE HAS BEEN LOCKED UP IN TX. SENCE 8-17-04.OK THEY SHOULD LOCK UP A FEW MORE THAT GOT DWIs. BUT WE KNOW THEY WANT!!!THEY HAVE $$$ WE DON'T HAVE..