Thursday, August 14, 2008

Texas prison guards may get 20% pay hike - TDCJ requests 10.5% overall budget increase

Texas prison guards would get a 20% pay hike if TDCJ officials have their way, reports the Austin American Statesman ("Big raises sought for prison workers," Aug. 14):

Brad Livingston, the prison system's executive director, said the proposal would raise starting pay for correctional officers from $26,016 to $30,179 and the maximum salaries from $34,624 to $42,242. Livingston said the increase would cover staff from correctional officers through wardens.

For parole officers, starting pay would increase from $32,277 to $37,441, and the maximum salary would go from $36,363 to $43,636.

Saying the proposal "will fundamentally address the officer career ladder for the long haul," Livingston said the goal is to continue to reduce the agency's critically high vacancy rate and "reward our employees for their dedication to providing public safety."

Texas prisons have been short of guards for several years, so short that officials within the past year have had to close parts of some prisons. Without proper staffing, convicts have to be kept confined to their cells more than they should be, programs have to be suspended, and conditions inside prisons generally become more undesirable — for guards and convicts.

The shortage of correctional officers reached a crisis point 11 months ago, when the agency had 3,978 vacancies. Livingston said that through July, the shortage had been reduced to 3,040, thanks to a beefed-up recruitment program and incentive pay.

Board Chairman Oliver Bell predicted that the pay increase will help reduce the vacancy rate even more. It will help "retain our current staff, recruit new officers and overall would send a positive message to our employees that we value their dedication to protecting the safety of the citizens of Texas."

Although legislative leaders greeted the proposal warmly, they said it will have to be considered with all the other demands that will face state budget writers come January.

The grand total for proposed raises - $453 million and change. And that's not the only proposed increase stemming from Texas' jam-packed, understaffed prison system:

In addition to the raises, the agency's $6.6 billion, two-year legislative appropriation request also includes an additional $181.1 million for convict health care, $30 million to buy additional video surveillance and contraband screening gear and metal detectors to beef up security, $22 million to make a former Veterans Affairs hospital in Marlin usable for convict health care and more than $10 million to expand treatment programs.

The proposal includes no money for new prisons.

That amounts to nearly $700 million in new expenditures for the prison system, or a growth rate of 10.5% over the last budget. What's more, that assumes a de minimus expansion for treatment programs, but more will be needed to reverse long-term incarceration trends that made the prisons so full in the first place.

It's hard to tell whether even this large a pay hike will resolve TDCJ's 3,000 guard shortfall. Most prison units are in rural areas where the labor market remains limited, and no amount of pay changes the fact that Texas prisons are un-air conditioned in the summer and a distasteful work environment year round. But we already know Texas can't adequately staff prisons at current pay rates, so Livingston deserves kudos for proposing a radical solution.

One factor not mentioned in the press coverage: Last year the Legislature linked Youth Commission employees pay to guards at TDCJ to stop the drain of staff from that agency, so if TDCJers get this raise there will probably be an added expense from bringing TYC up to par.

There will be those who chafe at spending so much on prisoner health care, one suspects, at a time when a quarter or more Texans don't have health insurance. But considering the size of Texas' prison system, we'll probably still be underspending after the increase. If one day the feds step in and force the state to fully live up to its constitutional obligations on inmate healthcare, those costs could balloon very quickly like they have in California.

Texas has long enjoyed an artificially low overall cost per inmate compared to other states and these proposed increases are just beginning to address those historic deficiencies. It's not so much that base costs have increased, but Texas must also pay the piper for obligations the Legislature shortchanged for many years.

The other options, of course, for those who dislike the expense, would be to criminalize less stuff and incarcerate fewer people.

35 comments:

Anonymous said...

Look for TYC to Piggy-Back on this plan since they cannot come up with their own plan. Always a day late and a dollar short.

Anonymous said...

It is gratifying to see this move to increase salaries for correctional officers and parole officers. Unfortunately, missing from this proposal is additional funding for probation officer salaries, which are inadequate as well. This omission demonstrates a lack of leadership at CJAD, the division of TDCJ that is responsible for funding probation and community corrections programs.

Miles said...

Is the union (or anyone)campaigning for the improvements to conditions that would help recruit more staff?

Anonymous said...

To blogger 8-14-08. The union in Bexar County does not consider salaries and working conditions important. The union here is only concerned about urinalysis policy.

Anonymous said...

Less incarceration is the answer to reducing overall costs. You could raise the pay for Co's and still save money.

More parole approvals are needed. Additional money in rehabilitation programs would make successful parole more likely and maintain the public safety.

Most offenders are young and consequently healthy. Placing them in a situation where communicable diseases flourish because of high heat and close quarters encourages illness.

Air Conditioning would go a long way to reduce health care costs and improve working conditions for Guards.

Legislators should carefully review all options, not just spend more and change nothing else.

Anonymous said...

To blogger 8-14-08 @ 4:00 p.m. How can you breathe with both feet in your mouth and your head up your A**.
You are obviously an "IDIOT" and probably one of the GUTLESS FOURSOME and/or an administrator!
The Central Texas Association of Public Employees, or C-TAPE is very concerned about salaries, high turnover, low morale and reatliation by the Chief and his management. We have been in touch with those in Austin that will make the decision to raise salaries of all caseload officrs. Not Managers/Admin.
I sent GRITS a copy of the CSO Survey by Angelo State University and Bonita White was meeting with the PAC and those in the Criminal Justice committees this morning. They will make the decision tomorrow.
C-TAPE, United

Anonymous said...

If they would pay probation officers(CSO's) better wages, they would be able to retain the exerienced officers that are willing and able to help offenders get back on the right track. This would also help reduce the revolving door isssue with caseload reduction revocations and overcrowding of TDCJ-ID.
CSO's don't currently feel they are being fairly compensated and leaving for better paying jobs.

Anonymous said...

HEY GRITS, what about contacting Bonita White and see what she has to say about Probation Officers and their salary issues! What does that survey say? Give us the info please.
Concerned citizen

Anonymous said...

FYI
This e-mail is the finalized report from Dr. Lee of Angelo State on the Turnover Intention Study sponsored by the PAC. I feel that the report is very well written and will be useful in advocating for salary increases for Probation Officers and others in the coming months. The report is 121 pages long, but you can gain a good idea of its total contents by reading the first 15 pages and the summaries at the back of the report, if you are limited in time. There were 2653 line officers and 581 other direct care staff, for a total of 3234, who responded to the survey, thanks to the support of the probation chiefs statewide who forwarded the surveys to their respective staffs. This is a 76% response rate, based on the presumed number of line officers in the state. The Survey concludes that "pay satisfaction is the strongest underlying cause of high turnover intention in Texas probation."
The companion reports being prepared by CJAD staff on the Salary Survey and the Turnover Survey (of actual turnover) from the responses of 105 CSCD Directors statewide (86% response rate] are not yet completed and contain some presumed misleading information regarding some of the high-end salaries listed for line officers (such as $88,623 for line officers in a small department). After these are cleaned up and completed, I will forward the results to everybody.
These reports were the subject of much discussion at the PAC and JAC meetings last week. Even though facing announced statewide budget cuts for the next legislative session, the PAC voted to move forward with a recommendation of a $6,000 salary supplement for all line officers and direct care staff statewide, as part of a requested basic supervision line item increase for adult probation. This figure is higher than amounts previously discussed, because it would include fringe benefits within that amount. If we are successful in our request, the average amount of take-home pay would actually come out to about $4800 per year per staff member in most departments. The Judicial Advisory Council voted to support the request for a salary supplement for probation officers to deal with the retention and turnover issues, but did not endorse the $6,000 amount without further study.
I would like to thank everyone across the state for the high participation level and for making this study a success. We recognize that our work has just begun and the challenge is still out there to show that this survey was worth the efforts of all who participated.
If you have questions about the survey or the legislative process we are going through, please feel free to contact me.
Steve Enders
PAC Chair

Anonymous said...

Scott, if you really believe Brad Livingston originated this request you are infected with whatever willie has been over-exposed with (one second thought that is a litle harsh).

I would love to see that kind of a raise for the employees but we have been down this yellow brick road before. The only change is the amount; 20% is really shooting for the sky.

I can hear Sly and the rest now, "Yes these employees do deserve a raise, but what about DPS, etc.,etc., etc.,". I do wish them luck. I would say it is the thought that counts but that doesn't pay for insurance and other expenses.

Retired 2004

Anonymous said...

4pm blogger.....I think miles is talking about co's or parole....not probation. Stop being a hater and worry about what you can do to help the probation officers of the state. I am a probation officer in a north county and Bexar is trying hard and all of us around the state would like to thank Bexar County Probation Officers for trying to change the rent a probation officer game that is being played.
I'm sure they are working on a probation raise since most officers could be a jailer and make more money.

Anonymous said...

Love that 5:28.

I agree, get back to work short ones. You 3 are on the chief's hit list.

If you are not in the union / or TPA do your work and stay out of the politics. The infighting looses funds for all. So keep your head down and work .....let the real officers who want change work things out. Good job for parole and CO's much needed!!!!

Anonymous said...

Is there no ac in the prisons?

sunray's wench said...

to anon @ 12.08 ~ there is some in the visitation rooms, but none that I know of in the main parts of the units. The inmates can have fans (unless they are in transfer facilities) but that just moves the hot air around.

I really sympathise with the COs in their heavy uniforms during the summer.

Anonymous said...

When inmates leave TDCJ they are usually so unskilled and/or old, and in poor health, that they immediately become social security, disability, SSI, Medicare/Medicaid welfare cases of one degree or another. Too bad that the Texas public is so unsophisticated that they do not see the total costs their taxes must cover. I have heard of several inmates that got out of TDCJ and racked up several million dollars in heath care under Medicare and Medicaid before they died. Hopefully thousands will do likewise. Do you see anybody in the Texas legislature talking about this? The media? The "daily" inmate cost TDCJ foists off on the public is a lie, it merely constitutes the equivalent of the down payment on a car. The other 60 months of payments are not talked about. As for guards, TDCJ needs to hire illegals like the billionaires that support both political parties. The Boyd Unit in Teague is not air conditioned and on my visit there the guards smelled at least as bad as the inmates. Egalitarianism in TDCJ paradise---you have to love it.

Diana Jail Bird said...

3:23 AM really said a mouthful. Our group receives quite a few emails from people permanently damaged by lack of medical treatment during a stay in county lockups (especially the East Texas jails), and I hear that health care by TDCJ's contractor is similar. I hope that county commissioners and state officials will eventually get caught out in this false economy—even if nobody cares about the suffering of inmates disabled by lack of care. (Would appreciate an email from 3:23; write to diana@texasjailproject.org)

Anonymous said...

Hey, Mr. Governor!!! How about worrying about the workers of this state as much as you do your precious hair.
Get off your A** and demand parity for prison guards, parole officers and probation officers!!!!

Anonymous said...

Has increasing the guard salary ever resulted in better employee retention or decreased the number of incidents of guard on inmate assault?

Helga Dill said...

anonymous 8/15/2008 12:08:00 AM

No there is no air conditioning in TX prisons ! There is also no individual cable TV . Just because you see these things on TV does not make it so .
The guards suffer as much from no A/C as do the prisoners. My organization, TX CURE, has donated 8000 fans to indigent prisoners to keep them alive and reasonably healthy since they did not all receive the death penalty.

Helga Dill, Chair, TX CURE

Anonymous said...

I would like to see the retirees get something out of this. We did our time on "them ol' blocks but haven't gotten an extra cent in at least 7 years. We like to eat, too.
About all I can afford to do is stay home. I try to keep my gasoline usage down to 1 tank per month, so I can afford to pay my electric bill. Everything is going up but wages. The spending power of my retirement check has diminished a LOT,in the last few years. HELP!!!

Anonymous said...

William Harrison #864645 informs me that his cell reaches 108 degrees and he has to sleep with a wet cloth under his head to keep from passing out. He is at the Boyd Unit in Teague and he describes his top bunk as a "sauna". His tiny window faces west and his cell is behind several feet of concrete. TDCJ is careful not to let outside agencies bring thermemeters in and this is not surprising. Concerned groups need to start contacting the US Justice Deaprtment's Prison Standards section and not wait for anyone in Texas to reform TDCJ. Thank you, James Harrison, brother of William Harrison.

Anonymous said...

The increase for correctional officers and parole officers is a welcome blessing. But an increase for all correctional staff should be considered. Clerks, mailroom, maintenance, we all have a role in this agency.
I have been a correctional officer for 12 years and I witnessed the excellent job these other departments do. But, being a CO, I am somwhat predudice. Give us our raise and consider the other departments at the session. " Good things come to those who wait."

Anonymous said...

THE TEXAS PRISIONS ARE THE LOWEST PAY FOR PRISION GUARDS.ALL THE OTHER STATES PAYS THERE GUARDS MORE MONEY.AND THEY NEED TO.THAT KINDA WORK CAN BE VERY DANGEROUS.I HAVE ALWAYS THOUGHT THERE PAY WAS TOO LITTLE.I THINK THIS PAY HIKE NEEDS TO PASS.LIKE NOW.

Anonymous said...

i work on these same units as these co's . i walk down these same hallways and cell blocks as these co's and more times than not i don't have any security walk with me hell sometimes i don't even see any security on these cell blocks there asigned to them but most of the time they are standing in the hall not on the wings . i go down the cell blocks in seg with no security or trust vest a lot of time. i travel with a work crew all hours of the day and night and all over the state with no security with me not even as much as pepper spray. oh but wait these offenders are so called trustees. as a good friend of mine said once a trusty is a riskee. did i mention he is a warden hmmmmm
he thinks my job is just as dangerous as co's... what if tdcj had no support services such as maint. clerks. mailroom .. ag. hr. pest control....hummm i just wonder how would this organization run.... no i am not hating on the co's i did work in security for 7 and a half years... if co's get that raise so should the rest of us.

fav.or.it said...

The last pay study done on TDCJ by the employee's organization AFSCME, found that TDCJ was ranked No. 48 in the US on state correctional officer pay. In order for TDCJ to reach the middle of the road in pay they need to increase their max pay to between $40,000 to $45,000.
Texas might be facing costly Federal oversight if they do not fix their problem with professional staffing. A 20% raise is cheap compared to costly Federal oversight.

sent from: fav.or.it

Wolfman said...

Not only are units not air-conditioned, where there IS. AC it's always set far, far too cold (sub-65 degrees typically) so that correctional staff and inmates that are exposed to hot-cold cycles when working those areas have their immune system shocked each time they cross the threshold.

Additionally, medical is terrifyingly understaffed in East Texas. UTMB provides 3 medical aides and a RN to keep up with 3500+ inmates, and then does everything it can to keep them from getting Overtime. UTMB medical staff are barred from assisting TDCJ employees in non life-threatening emergencies (they can be fired for so much as giving an officer an aspirin!). A single use-of-force can put the medical department hours behind schedule and pill-window operations are an excersize in frustration because medium custody inmates are allowed to stand in hallways for hours (an socialize/network/extort, they are NOT there for meds) during times of mass movment, allowing them to all-to-easily fall out of place among lower custody level offenders.

Kitchen staff are so understaffed it's a daily miracle that chow is fed at all, and it is always sub-standard compared to even your average swine slop. They cannot maintain oversight over the one or two hundred inmates they are tasked to direct, meaning that massive quantities of consumables go over the line (sugar, peanut butter, cheeze especially) unchecked. Kitchens need at least a quadrupling of their staffing (currently there may be three or four officers working a kitchen that has 100+ offenders all looking to make off with supplies. There should be a minimum, on a short-staffed day, of eight or more).

TDCJ needs federal oversight again, it is failing to fulfill even the most basic of its contracted obligations to both offenders and staff. Safety and security are barely maintained and are so only because the majority of inmates 'tow the line'. On a daily basis there are so many activities, and so few officers, that no security practices such as shake-downs can be accomplished.

It's a travesty, and unfortunately the legislature, and TDCJ as a whole, won't make a move even if (or when) an officer dies to offender aggression (as occured at the Micheal unit some short time ago - an officer was stabbed 18 times).

Anonymous said...

Responding to blogger 9/04/2008 09:58:00 PM

The escapes that occured during the Ike evacuations bear in mind that all five... FIVE mind you!!... escapes and attempted escapes have been trustees.

Most trustee camps have no fence, no perimeter oversight, some lack even perimeter patrols that pass by, and they are as understaffed as any other area of the farm.
Heck, I've even seen a Lieutenant's uniform hanging in an office that 'trustee' inmates have access to. The office was empty, and the door unsecured, when I entered.

Anonymous said...

proselaw.net is a website that shows families of TDCJ inmates how to sue the parole board and do it for cheap!

Anonymous said...

what about pay raises for industry and the maintenance who work with inmates making and saving the state millions of dollars what about raises for us we were look over last time and if we are look over again im pretty sure most industry and maintenance would tranfer back to a co. and there will be no more industry or maintenance workers to run these departments!!!!!

Anonymous said...

I have read some of the blogs posted in this web site and from what i have read i am appalled. has anyone ever heard of the saying why do fightfighters run into a burning building when everyone eles is running out. the same goes for correctional officers why do we run to the riots, fights, stabbings, suicide attempts when everyone that were free world cloths stays in there office. I think it is a very good idea to give the officers a pay raise that is well deserved. It is them that puts their life on the line everyday to keep the public safe from convicted felons. there are only three types of offenders that is murders, rapist, and thieves, and we have to deal with these types of offenders with out knowning what kind of person they really are. after all they are not in there for singing loud in a church choir.

Anonymous said...

Convict advocacy groups need to ally themselves with groups such as the ACLU so as to get some cogent lawsuits filed against the state. Dozens of little groups are doing their own "bit" and the result is that nothing real gets accomplished. Until enough groups coalesce into a courtroom setting nothing will change. To the group that suppled fans---most of them have been confiscated by the guards. A united effort is the only thing that will work, backed up by a fund raising effort that covers all of Texas and beyond. Real lawyers cost money---and Norman Sirak's effort was a dismal failure for all of us. No time to dither however---we all know what has to be done.

Anonymous said...

So the TDCJ guards are worried about getting more money---maybe they should be a bit more worried about getting cancer and/or staying alive?! Most TDCJ units have drinking water that is laced with pollutants that range from thallium to industrial solvents, not to mention rat poison to pesticides. I STRONGLT advise all prison units to check their jail of employment against the list at ewg.com. It looks to me like a lot of prison guards may well be dying before the convicts they herd around, depending upon which group drinks more water.......

Anonymous said...

If Lieutenant Governor Dewhurst were to donate some of his suits to a public auction TDCJ guards would be rolling in cash. Surely a French made custom tailored suit could feed a guard's family for a year or two...............

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Anonymous said...

I have yet to see more than a VERY few TDCJ guards that have any command presence. Most look like short, fat, dumpy "alternative lifestyle" pseudo females or men that are one step away from a nursing home. TDCJ needs to start hiring physically fit illegals from Mexico like most Texas companies have been doing for years---to include the firms owned by the people in the Texas state legislature. Now the chickens come home to roost and it is really funny to watch.