Monday, April 07, 2008

Texas prison guard salary ranks 47th among states

I realize the cost of living differs significantly according to geography, but I'm pretty sure Texas don't have the 4th lowest cost of living among states, even though Texas correctional officers are "47th on the nationwide list when it comes to what they're paid." Texas' average prison guard salary is less than half that in California, according to the Beaumont Enterprise:
PRISON PAY
Correctional officer salaries, annual mean wage

Top five
  1. California, $61,000
  2. New Jersey, $56,960
  3. Massachusetts, $53,090
  4. Nevada, $50,120
  5. New York, $46,760
Texas, surrounding states
  • New Mexico, $30,400
  • Texas, $30,100
  • Louisiana, $26,940
  • Mississippi, $23,470
Source: U.S. Department of Labor
The paper also calculted that there's an overall "one guard per 5.28 inmate ratio in California versus a one guard per 7.03 inmate ratio in Texas," though the two states have about the same number of inmates.

Despite a recent increase in starting salary for new hires, the Enterprise quoted state Sen. John Whitmire pointed out that the state gets what it pays for by underpaying guards, which has contributed to absenteeism and more discipilinary problems:
Whitmire isn't sure the latest pay raise to new hires will make enough of a difference.

"Getting a 10 percent raise is almost too little, too late," he said, adding that a comprehensive assessment of the correctional officer profession in Texas is gravely needed.

"We need to look at the long-term and the short-term," Whitmire said.

"By raising the qualifications and standards for correctional officers, that can make it a profession somebody wants to do long-term."

Whitmire said while he's proud of Texas correctional officers' hard work, given the environment they work in, he's concerned that standards have been lowered to recruit correctional officers.

"They're hiring 18-year-olds two months out of high school," he said of the relative inexperience that goes along with youth. "We've got officers who are 70 years old, senior citizens. That's a security risk."

He also pointed out that physical fitness standards have been lowered, with overweight, out-of-shape correctional officers in the system.

Whitmire said he wants to meet with state criminal justice administrative officials and discuss the severity of the officer shortage. "It's worse than they're acknowledging," Whitmire said.
Many Texans support keeping prisons as inhospitable as possible because they're supposed to be about punishment, but those same poor conditions (think double shifts with no air conditioning in the Texas summer heat) combine with low pay to make it nearly impossible to staff current prisons in their existing, mostly rural locations.

9 comments:

Jami said...

We have so far to go to fix this ailing system, I've almost lost hope for it.

I just know that constant conflict between a broken prison/security system and a staff that works toward habilitation of criminals defeats our purpose of changing criminal behavior. I go into work many days and believe I'm fighting an uphill battle ... not because of the inmates, but because of the guards and the "punish the criminals" mentality. I will never understand such short-sighted thinking.

Texas needs to get it together.

Steve said...

Thanks for pointing this out. It's never a good idea, IMHO, to underpay these folks. Just bad all around.

Anonymous said...

What else would you expect from Texas?

Anonymous said...

From Someone who Knows
Stop Hiring Kids And single women and men for oppsite sex prisions.
Dont hire people form the same neighborhoods as the criminals like south Dallas to work in south Dallas it never works.
You catch more flys with honey someone once said make the job a little better then the Officers have a little more to loose if the goof it up. Also give them a way to get a little help paying some bills or getting a payday advance or some finacial assitance to keep them from trying to go to the Dark side.
Help me OBe ONE TDCJ THe state of Texas tries so Hrd to be so hrd the punish thing extends way beyond the Inmate theey try to cram what they want down the staffs throat at every turn funny thing so many Cheifs so many turns you dont know what to do.
staff is over bossed under paid under trained no benifits well you have them but you cant use them. most employees loose time sad but true. were told what to eat where to eat we have no ac no communication in fact when you work for Tdcj you give up your rights as a USA Citizen your treated as a offender I will quit soon when I do I will go public with my name and alot of information.
I will say TDCJ is the worst Prison System in The United States That I know of in fact I may Take it to the President my self not only is it opression of Offenders but also of American Workers Whis is Unconstitutional.

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bruce said...

Well, California prison gaurds are grossly over paid. I know you want more money, but using California is a starting point is insane given the disasterous state of their correctional system.

Maybe texas should pay more, it certainlly sounds like they could have better administration. But anyone who uses California as a example lacks credibility. The only thing California is an example of is sweetheart deals between the gaurds union and legislators which bypasses collective bargaining.

Anonymous said...

It takes a certain group of people to work in a prison. Everyone isn't cut out to be prison guards. That's the same with all professions. What's sad is Texas Prison guards make the same amount of money as fast food workers. The only real benefit is the retirement. I've been with TDCJ for 10yrs I still have 17yrs before I retire. Perry says we don't have degrees. That's a lie there's lots of people with degrees. I have an associates working on my bach. It takes time and money something we don't get. I had to get a second job just to get the money for my education.

Ronny said...

This is a double edged sword. A previous poster stated "don't hire folks from the same neighborhoods and don't mix genders." Not bad advice. Having been an inmate you see good and bad, honest and despicable officers as well. Official theft is a huge problem. Its usually done by the higher paid officials. The same clannish officials that promote by cronyism. Sure a higher base pay would be great. So would professional management and oversight!

Anonymous said...

if you are only going to pay fast food wages for a job that requires interaction with the worst of society every day the only people who will take the job will be the worst off. there will be a higher incidence of contraband in the system because people cant live on fast food wages.