Saturday, June 23, 2012

TDCJ staffing woes growing more acute: CO departure rates up

After TDCJ closed a wing of the Connally unit because of understaffing among correctional officers (COs), Grits asked for data regarding staffing levels at other units and was sent this report from May 31 detailing staff vacancies across the agency. Correctional officer staffing at the Connally unit was lowest, but five other units were at less than 70% of full staffing as of that date:
McConnell    59.89%
Connally       59.30%
Smith            61.85%
Dalhart         67.80%
Daniel           63.17%
Ware            65.03%
These units are dangerously understaffed and operating unsustainably on overtime. Another five units were at between 70-80% of full staffing. Overall, last year TDCJ was 22.4% below the number of correctional officers budgeted. But digging a bit deeper into the numbers, TDCJ is having an even harder time retaining COs than in the past. According to the agency's FY 2011 turnover report, obtained by Grits yesterday and posted online here, COIs, or entry level staff, continued to leave the agency at a whopping 59.4% rate, roughly the same as the year before. But separations by COIIs increased last year, to 56.5%, up from 50.6% in 2010. Equally concerning, COIII's are leaving the agency at a higher rate than the previous year: One third (33.8%) left the agency in 2011 compared to 28.1% in 2010.

At those rates, that means only 17.7% of new hires at COIs make it through the process to become COIIIs, down from 20.1% in 2010. (See the correction/clarification in this update post.) And a third of COIIIs left last year as well. (People with a bachelors degree or military experience can start at COIII, so their high turnover rate also reflects folks leaving in the early part of their tenure.) In essence, out of every five COIs the agency hires, they lose (a bit more than) four of them.

More experienced COs are also leaving at slightly higher rates. Some 14.7% of COIVs left the agency in 2011 compared to 11.4% in 2010, and 10.2% of COVs left the agency, compared to 8.4% the year before. Overall, a whopping 6,124 COs left TDCJ last year, which after new hires left more than 2,500 slots unfilled.

As a commenter pointed out the other day, there's a limited pool to draw on for these jobs. Folks with significant education or skills can generally find higher paying work. And with one in 25 Texas adults in prison, jail, on probation or parole - and a much larger number having criminal records - many folks for whom TDCJ would seem like a good job from an economic standpoint aren't eligible. Plus, Texas is an urban state and most of the prisons are in rural counties, so there's a location mismatch between jobs and workers.

TDCJ has offered a one-time bonus to recruits willing to work at their most understaffed units, doubling a bonus created in 2008 for the same purpose from $1,500 to $3,000. That should help but it's a short-term fix. As of May 2011, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean wage for Texas correctional officers stood at $34,880 - not the lowest in the region but probably not competitive enough to attract people from elsewhere. State and local governments collectively employ more than 48,000 people as guards in Texas prisons and jails, according to the BLS, giving Texas the largest number of correctional officers in the nation. One wonders whether the state has maxxed out its labor pool available to do that job in areas where units face chronic understaffing.


Anonymous said...

Ain't it ironic the state now mandates county jails to report monthly jail personnel turnover rate as a means to determine if the jail is "at risk" but are failing dismally with the TDJ turnover rate. Smacks of arrogance.

Anonymous said...

And yet, those on the right deride those "lavish" benefits that state workers receive.

If those benefits are so great, those who criticize state workers and their benefits should apply.

Anonymous said...

Let that arrogant chairperson on the state corrections committe handle it. He knows everything about corrections. It simply costs money to lock everybody up. Shift it to the counties let them pay for it and perhaps they'll fire some DA's who fabricate evidence and manipulate witnesses. Also understand something, new CO's get paid less than employees with experience. It's cheaper to replace bosses every few years than deal with employees who know the rules by experience.

bill counties said...

7:17 said "Shift it to the counties let them pay for it and perhaps they'll fire some DA's who fabricate evidence and manipulate witnesses."

When in the hell is the legislature going to get the picture regarding DA's and their drunken obsession to incarcerate low risk offenders. 7:27 you are right on but not the first to suggest passing the bill to the counties. It will at least place the blame where it belongs. Despite popular belief, counties and DA's are joined at the hip. Why the hell do you think we never hear of county officials being brought on charges by the DA's office.

Anonymous said...

Who would want to work as a prison guard? Who wants to put up with the the kind of abuse guards are subjected to?

DeathBreath said...

I started working for TDCJ-ID during 1987 in the Psychology department. Back then, we were dealing with staffing ratios imposed by the Ruiz lawsuit & special masters. However, when this oversight was removed, TDCJ was left to self-manage. Did anyone really believe this would have a storybook ending?

Now, after John "Clueless" Whitemire & the other buffoons have gutted the system, things are starting to unravel, as I once predicted.

For the misinformed cretins that know very little about what it takes to run a prison system, will soon learn how a mismanaged prison system impacts your utopia & ultimately cost you more in taxes. I think it is hilarious.

I feel for the officers that are being disrespected by a selfish & ungrateful public. Their lives are being jeopardized by snake oil sales representatives in Austin, Texas.

Many prison units are very difficult to populate with officers, particularly those with experience.

Despite the TeaTards mantra "don't raise taxes", these officer need an incentive to work in such a hostile environment. If you are delusional enough to believe that government employees are lazy & overpaid, you are an idiot.

Now, you can live with the consequences of step up to the plate. We need officers to manage a very difficult population.

If you think differently, why don't you adopt an offender & take them into your home?

6/23/2012 11:59:00 PM

sunray's wench said...

Anon 11.35 ~ while that may be true for some inmates, many others just want to do their time and go home, and do not make a habit of being disrespectful to the COs.

DeathBreath ~ I'd love to have my inmate home with me thanks, when can we do the handover?

Anonymous said...

Funny how nobody wants to work at TDCJ or DPS. A program rewrite is needed for both.

PAPA said...

Release,RElease,RELEASE the non violent offenders and the offenders egible for parole,give them their GOOD TIME,Get rid of Chair Rissie Owens who does not believe in Parole,time for a changing of the guards,what is going on is not working,how about trying something that works,STOP Incarcerating the Non-Violent,charge a fine which helps the community and doesn't cost thousands of taxpayer dollars,STOP the LONG AGO LOST DRUG WAR and housing of the suvivors of the Drug War and cost the taxpayers thousands to take care of the "Walking Wounded left over from the Drug War",the taxpayers having been hollering this for over 20 years now,time for a change, who will stand up to make that change?????

Hold Accountable said...

And may I add, pass the bill back to Counties served by District Attorneys for failing to follow "smart on crime" initiatives.

Anonymous said...

During the last years of the Ruiz Court's monitor, TDCJ was as nearly a model prison system as a prison system can be. There was a pride in the men and women who worked there. I observed that as a medical officer. The ink had no dried on the termination papers before the dismanteling of the medical and correction divisions began with vindictive speed. At some units the resident physician was removed and a part time physician was used. Over work and too many patients became the standard. CO's and MD's and health care personnel departed so that the present numbers probably could constitute another federal suit.

The care now can be described easily as a form of malpractice.

And most of all, the large cumulative experience of the seasoned CO's is not there to input the medical.

And that sort of quality of medical care becomes a blackeye on the academit standing of UTMB.

The State Board seems to look the other was (as before). Eventually tragedy and the courts will enter again. But this time there is no captive correctional officer pool.

Unknown said...

Is there a like button!! Lol I would love to have my inmate husband home. I'm ignorant of the politics of this whole mess. My husband is waisting tax payer money, sitting in a safp unit in Kyle. He said it is a joke and a rip off. Not to him. Go along with the program

Anonymous said...

DA's have no interest in following "right on crime" initiatives. They are often more interested in beating the opponent (the defense attorney) than they are interested in what is justice for individual defendants.

Low level non-violent offenders clog all systems (county jail and the prison). The TCJC cited 48% of the prison system was low level non violent offenders.

Even Sheriff's Offices (the Sheriff himself, the politician, who panders to what he perceives as public opinion) are often clueless about diverting defendants from incarceration.

It is impossible to get bail bondsman, county court at law judges, district court judges, prosecutors, adult probation personnel on the same page regarding diversion. It is impossible because there is no legislation to give proper guidance, Texas is too large to cookie cut a solution, and every entity in the CJ system answers to different masters (i.e., funding streams).

Prisons will always be understaffed until we stop sending so many to prison. Too many behaviors are considered non-law abiding.

It is sickening.

Mama said...

AMEN to getting rid of Rissi....she still hasn't obeyed the court orders given to her several years ago and repeated recently. There are inmates who were approved for parole and have yet to be released.....some of these inmates have been waiting YEARS to be let out on parole. What's with that? Ya' think Rissi has an ally up at the top? I'm just sayin'.....
A source on the "inside" told me TDC was bringing in Nigerians to work as guards and promising them a green card. Anyone heard anything about that little tidbit?

Anonymous said...

In response to "Mama Said," it is true that TDCJ is utilizing foreigners for staffing, Nigerians and others. They can barely speak English, and inmates cannot communicate with them. They are abusing inmates and causing all sorts of problems. I say - get people off of welfare roles and put THEM to work! It would be a win-win situation for the tax payers. But first, we need to parole those who have served enough time to get parole and not turn them down over and over again. Some of the guys were assigned FI-5, which meant they had to attend training prior to being paroled but the training classes are backed up and so full that they can't even get into the class for years - so what does that do? It's the same thing as not giving them parole at all, and by the time they attend the classes, they've served their entire sentence. Go figure! I say it's time for a change!! And - yes, I'm ready for my son to be released!!

carol kobus said...

yes, to mamas question, has any one heard of ,nigerians being hired? 3 units my sons been at in past 2 years , have employed nigerian personal. which the language barriers have resulted in cases for my son, he is severly hearing impaired.Now at McConnally unit, no kitchen personal, so 6 days a week , they eat jonnies, sack lunches, wonder if nigerians can cook? or maybe they can,t read the reciepts, whatever, but i guess thrir fitting right in with the other uneducated tdcj personal. another mother that would take her son home in a heartbeat. carol kobus, mom of 1106503

Phillip Baker said...

Yes, mama, I can attest to the hiring of Nigerians (and every other African and Asian national you can imagine). I spent almost 2 years advocating for a young, non-violent 1st offender STATE JAIL sentenced young man with a VERY serious and VERY costly disorder. When I called JIII, I'd often get someone who could not speak English well enough for me to understand her. And they got real miffed when I requested someone who could! They could not communicate with the offenders, they might as well have used a rubber stamp for their charting (using the only English words they knew?), and mishandled many, many medical orders. And the Pakistani doctor was not much better. Needless to say, the care was 3rd world.

(This is part of a global scam. The Philippines churns out thousands of registered nurses yearly- a major export commodity, so many that there are no jobs for them there. To get a job abroad, you have to have a year's experience, so they work for free for doctors and hospitals. A job in the US is their ultimate goal, and prisons are the ones hiring.) Our inmates are the ones being harmed. We'll pay SO much in malpractice/damage claims. Sad.

Kevin Stouwie said...

One of the economic forces that is killig the recruitment effort in South Texas is the Eagle Ford Shale drilling boom. TDCJ cannot compete when oil field work and CDL work, etc. is paying twice what a CO makes. At the Stevenson Unit in Cuero, a huge percentage of the CO's are female due to this issue.

With respect to the influx of Nigerian CO's, you see it most prominently at the units south of Houston.

It is a really big problem that is getting worse instead of better. I am sometimes told I cannot see a client at a prison on certain days or at certain times because there is no available CO to accommodate attorney visits at the time I request. Yet, they also will not allow telephone interviews in most cases either. Pretty sad.

S and C said...

Mama: My fiance can certainly attest to the influx of foreigner COs. He served nine months at Jester I (in Richmond, not far from Houston for those unfamiliar with the Jester units) and he told me it surprised the "heck" (not his word) out of him that there were so many foreigner COs at the unit--from what he's told me quite a few Haitians and some Nigerians. He quipped that he found it surprising and a bit sad that unemployment is what it is in the state of Texas and yet TDCJ was bringing in foreigners from abroad to fill in CO positions.

sunray's wench said...

Usually, if overseas workers are employed in their own country, the contract of employment only has to cover the labour laws in that country, and not the receiving country. I would imagin that the Nigerian workers are employed under Nigerian standards, which means they get paid a whole lot LESS than any American worker would legally need to be paid.

They could always close the prisons closest to the oil fields, and maybe build smaller urban prisons that would be easier to staff....

Sorry, forgot we were talking about Texas for a minute there.

Anonymous said...

I had this thread in mind when I posted on another one so I'll repeat myself here.

How can they do background checks on Nigerians. That's the country where all the email scams come from. They probably can't even be sure they are getting their real names.

I foresee this causing problems that we can't yet imagine.

Anonymous said...

Now inmates are being transfered to other prisons from the Connally Unit. Buses are lined up, to transfer the inmates that were staying in the dorms. They will be sent all over the dtate of texas, at a moments notice.What a shame!!!

Anonymous said...

Texas locks up people and forget about them. they get so-called meals that we would not feed our dogs. They are treated like dogs by the staff and when sick, takes a long time to get medical help because the nurses and doctors are not American and do not understand English language. They move the inmates as far away from their home, as to continue to punish the inmate.The Parole Board make them jump thru hoops when they come up for review, then off set them ech and every year. I know some people who have been up for review every year for the past 10 years. They did not murder,nor rape anyone and have had no cases in the last 15 years. I am ashamed to say I live in Texas, if I could afford to move, I would. I am truly ashamed of Texas. The whole Board of parole should be replaced by human beings.

Anonymous said...

Tdcj needs to pay more money to their officers and rewrite some policies that were written in the 1970s and treat their officers with more respect and hire people that arent 60 yrs old and still trying to put up with 20-50 yr old inmates that can beat their ass in a heartbeat or a 20 yr old that can be easily talked over by a 45 yr old inmate that has been half of his life in prison or nigerians that sound worse than a mexican when speaking english come on senator/gorvernor/president fix tdcj pay and staff criteria and some policies and getting disciplinary for mandatory overtime o yeah maybe we the people should just fire all of you for being so corrupt

Anonymous said...

It is the same at all levels of government. America has sold us out as cattle to the foreigners of all countries. We can be jailed for debt while they can escape, we can be charged child support while they cannot be tracked, we lose our passports while they keep theirs. English is no longer important, spanish is now the norm for most government position. We have accomodated all foreigners and have turned our backs on our fellow Americans in need. Illegals have more rights and privileges than we do. What went wrong.

Anonymous said...

Why can't we overturn the federal labor rules that prohibit overtime for COs? It would immediately raise the pay of current employees, increase hiring, and would do away with the current comp time program. Anonymous

Anonymous said...

Most offenders come out of attitudes like yours smarten up and quit listening to rumors