Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Short-staffed: Add Ware Unit to short list of possible TX prison closures

As the 83rd Texas legislative session nears, increasingly it seems as though the debate next year will be about which prison units to close instead of whether to close them. Sen. Whitmire and the prison guard union have suggested closing two private units - a pre-parole facility in Mineral Wells and a state jail in downtown Dallas - but the Department of Criminal Justice is also experiencing serious understaffing at several rural units, most recently having to move ad seg prisoners from two Panhandle units to better-staffed facilites. Reported the Houston Chronicle ("Guard shortage forces prisoners to move," Dec. 10)
Faced with shortages of guards that approach 50 percent, Texas prison officials have begun transferring inmates from two Texas Panhandle penitentiaries to units elsewhere in the state.

Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Jason Clark said about 200 inmates have been moved to an East Texas prison from the Smith Unit in Lamesa. The prison has a 2,234-inmate capacity, but has been operating with about half the needed correctional officers.

Spencer said those transferred came from the unit's "close custody" population and from those detained in solitary "administrative segregation."

Prison officials currently are moving about 400 inmates to lockups throughout the state from the Ware Unit in Colorado City. The prison has a 916-inmate capacity and slightly more than half of a full complement of guards.
Earlier this year, TDCJ had to move inmates out of the Connally unit in South Texas because of understaffing.

Grits earlier suggested several criteria by which legislators must judge which prison units to prioritize for closure, and the agency's ability to safely staff facilities definitely has to be high on the list. This news certainly adds the Ware Unit to the short list of those the Lege might consider shuttering, with nearly half its prisoners already moved to other facilities based on security concerns. Indeed, Ware may shutter itself if more low-waged prison workers can't be coaxed to move to Colorado City, which brings to mind a long-ago quip by a friend from Abilene who thought the best thing ever to come out of Colorado City was I-20.


Anonymous said...

Close 'em all.

Anonymous said...

Whitmire proposed to close the privately run Dawson State Jail next to the Trinity River. Got to start somewhere...