Statistics from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice reported nearly 8,000 disciplinary actions against employees of the system over a 12-month period, mostly for failing to perform their duties and unexcused absences.TDCJ employs a lot of folks, so these data represent a small percentage of total employees. But I take the fact that most infractions were for failure to perform duties and unexcused absences as evidence that TDCJ's chronic prison guard shortage has begun to more seriously effect on the job performance. It was already affecting employee safety. The number of assaults on guards and staff has doubled in the last five years, even though total prison populations have leveled off.
Of the 7,786 recorded disciplinary actions taken by the agency, at least 1,574 of those were for substandard performance. The agency also reprimanded 1,719 employees for unexcused absence of an hour or more.
Michelle Lyons, a spokesperson for TDCJ, said the most common infractions included "unexcused absenteeism, substandard duty performance and failure to obey a proper order from an authority."
The statistics, obtained by The Back Gate, a TDCJ watchdog group, claims the numbers are on the rise.
"The fact is this, for this fiscal year within TDCJ, there was a sharp increase in these types of numbers," said Marcus Williams, a writer for the group. "Whatever the reason, it's alarming."
Lyons confirmed the numbers as accurate.
Of the infractions recorded against staff, 729 were dismissed and 221 infractations were overturned or modified.
But 538 staff members were fired over their disciplinary actions, while 51 were demoted, 7 received a reduction in pay and 911 were suspended for an indefinite amount of time without pay.
Most employees who were disciplined — 4,902 of them — were placed on probation.
As part of the dismissal process, employees are allowed to participate in their dismissal through a mediation process, according to Williams.
Of the 368 mediation sessions, 103 resigned during the process.
Another 221 of those were overturned or modified and two resigned before their official dismissal. Just over 200 were approved for dismissal and fired.
Other cited infractions included 780 violations of statutory authority, 494 for failure to obey a proper order from authority, 249 for tardiness, 240 for leaving their post, 228 for sleeping on duty, 227 for conviction of misdemeanor charges, 205 for falsification of state documents, and 181 for having verbal/physical confrontations with other staff members.
These data, incidentally, are for actual disciplinary actions by the agency, not the total number of complaints investigated which would have been much higher. TDCJ's institutional division, the part of the agency which runs Texas' prisons, has somewhere in the ballpark of 30,000 employees - more by a longshot than any other state agency.