KBTX-TV reported yesterday that, "The Texas Department of Criminal Justice admits there's a statewide shortage of correctional officers. That fact is causing some local correctional officers to fear for their lives." While most of the focus on understaffing has centered on a handful of rural units, the story highlights shortages at units in the Huntsville area as well: "According to the latest records from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, just the 13 prisons in the Huntsville area are more than 700 correctional officers short."
The story says, "The TDCJ says they will urge the state lawmakers to consider a pay raise for correctional officers in the next legislative session." However, save for $32 million requested to enhance the salaries of prison health care workers, pay hikes for correctional officers were not included in the 12 "exceptional items" submitted in the agency's Legislative Appropriations Request.
How big is the problem? Last month, a union official wrote to Gov. Rick Perry urging raises for correctional officers (see Grits' earlier discussion here and here), offering these data on statewide understaffing trends:
The Department of Criminal Justice currently is over 2,700 officers short, not including the 530 correctional officer positions that were eliminated by your budget cuts this last session. The prisons further have over 500 new recruits in training every month, in addition to over 1,000 employees on Family Medical Leave Status, Military Leave, extended sick leave, and leave without pay. This leaves Texas prisons with a shortage of over 4,730 officers not present at TDCJ prison facilities.The Legislature last session behaved as though it were in collective denial on this question, cutting the budget for correctional staff, in-prison programming and prisoner health care without taking action to reduce the number of prisoners supervised. This outcome was both predictable and predicted; overstuffed, understaffed prisons are a policy choice, not mere happenstance. As such, to address the situation, the Lege ulltimately will need to make different policy choices.
See prior, related Grits posts:
- No easy fix for prison staffing shortage besides deincarceration
- Prison staff shortages and budget reality
- TDCJ can't keep rural units adequately staffed
- Staffing shortages force closure of TDCJ Connally unit wing
- Adult, juvie corrections took 39% of state employee reductions last year
- Juvie, adult prison guards atop list of high turnover state jobs
- 'As TDCJ recruiting slows, overtime usage increases'