PRISON PAYThe 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.
Correctional officer salaries, annual mean wage
Texas, surrounding states
- California, $61,000
- New Jersey, $56,960
- Massachusetts, $53,090
- Nevada, $50,120
- New York, $46,760
Source: U.S. Department of Labor
- New Mexico, $30,400
- Texas, $30,100
- Louisiana, $26,940
- Mississippi, $23,470
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.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.
"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.