Monday, May 20, 2013

Minimal raises for TX prison guards

The union representing Texas prison guards, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), issued a press release today complaining that pay hikes for corrections officers are half those given to "other statewide law enforcement" (I presume that's DPS). Taking account "an increase in retirement contributions, correctional officers will only see a little over 1% increase in their actual pay this next September." See the full press release below the jump.

Texas Prison Raise Raises Questions
By Lance Lowry, AFSCME
May 20, 2013

With the Texas Legislature releasing its finalized budget this last week, correctional officers question why their pay raise was only half that of other statewide law enforcement.  Lance Lowry President of the Huntsville American Federation of State County Municipal Employees, which represents Texas Correctional Officers, stated Monday that the State Legislature is treating correctional officers as the ugly stepchild of the Criminal Justice System.  Texas Correctional Officers will only receive  a 5 % raise over two years, while all other state law enforcement will receive a 10 % raise.  Lowry states with the raise split up over two years and an increase in retirement contributions, correctional officers will only see a little over 1% increase in their actual pay this next September. 

Lowry has attempted to address with the legislature the increasing staffing shortages which plague Texas prisons.  Staffing levels have fell to almost half the required officers at several Texas prison units.  Lowry states the current proposed increases fails to cover inflationary cost of living over the last two years and the legislature is being unrealistic on their attempt to address chronic staffing demands now in the thousands.  With energy production increasing dramatically in South and East Texas, Lowry states most officers can make twice as much in the energy sector and expects staffing to only get worse.  

In the late 70's and 80's the Texas Prison System was plagued with chronic under funding, which resulted in the Federal courts taking over the prison system.  Lowry states the legislature and state leadership have signaled again they are incapable of properly running their prison system and states history is repeating itself.  

Lowry states while most correctional officers are out of sight and out of mind, they do one of the most important jobs in our criminal justice system.  The job is hot, dirty, extremely dangerous, and is one of the most stressful jobs anyone can incur Lowry states.  Prison officers receive little recognition unlike police who are exposed to the public everyday.  Lowry states there is a clear wall of silence shielding correctional officers from the general public.  

In February, 17 former prison guards were indicted by a federal grand jury after a 4 year investigation authorities dubbed Operation Prison Cell.  The guards are alleged to have help inmates commit crimes from behind bars at TDCJ's McConnell prison in Beeville, including bringing in drugs and cell phones to coordinate crimes outside the walls.  Lowry states while the majority of correctional officers are honest, the poor pay, lack of experience, and work conditions make prison officers more susceptible to corruption.  Lowry states current politicians making the decision were short sided by not treating correctional officers with professional respect.  Lack of loyalty and commitment creates an atmosphere for corruption.  Lowry states it's not hard to look south of the border and see what a low wage criminal justice system gets you. 

Lowry states every time he visits the Texas Capitol he is haunted by the words of AFSCME's former Beeville Union President Daniel Nagle, who stated in 1999 while on the Texas Capitol steps, "Someone will have to be killed before they do anything about the shortage of staff in Texas prisons."  Two weeks later Officer Daniel Nagle was killed at the McConnel Prison Unit in Beeville by Inmate Robert Pruett who now awaits execution for the murder.  

Lowry states he appreciates a raise, but with the amount it's like appreciating a doctor treating a bullet wound with a small bandage, the problem is still there.  Lowry says the prison raise raises more questions on how the state realistically plans on staffing a chronically understaffed prison system with only a small increase in funds.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Grits, if I'm not mistaking wasn't part of the 97 million cut to close the prisons supposed to go to prison guards raises? Do you know when TDCJ will finally announce the 2 they plan to close? Everyone assumes Dawson but we sure would like to see the official word!

Anonymous said...

Grits, if I'm not mistaking wasn't part of the 97 million cut to close the prisons supposed to go to prison guards raises? Do you know when TDCJ will finally announce the 2 they plan to close? Everyone assumes Dawson but we sure would like to see the official word!

Anonymous said...

I've worked as a Correctional Officer in TDCJ for just over 10 now and I'm a Sgt. TDCJ has resorted to hiring foreigners to cover the shortages in Reg III, this act has caused a lack of communication between US born CO's and those from Nigeria. There is a separation between the two groups, culture diversity classes held during in service isn't working. Now about the pay and staff shortages, it appears that TDCJ really aren't doing anything to assist their staff with either one of this problems. Just look at the pay for those who sit behind a desk and have never worked a chow hall or they've forgotten where they come from. TDCJ went as far as to readjust the staffing plan on most units, just to show that the staffing shortage had lessened. I firmly believe there is a high level corruption going on here.

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Anonymous said...

I am so glad that TDCJ employees got thier 1% raise at the expense of putting other hardworking Texans out of jobs. The statement "cannot see the forrest for the trees" has never been more truer. They are supposed to be closing the most expensive units to run that the state has including State facilities but that was not done because of one Senator who has a grudge.

Anonymous said...

Wow we have someone commenting who's more then likely never put on the gray uniform and had to walk in on a fight or riot. That amount of a raise is an insult to those of who do it every day. I say the state should unload all Ad-Seg inmates back into General Population, just to be able to reassign staff where their needed and let inmates kill each other, maybe then there would be a scream for more staff and better pay from the public who has their baby rapper son locked up.

Anonymous said...

To Anon 12:00 PM

Two LEASED bed facilities are being closed because it's a waste of money. TDCJ has 12,000 empty beds and can actually house the inmates cheaper at a trustee camp which is at full capacity, than at a facility like Mineral Wells. At least the State cleans their own house and the employees know when to call foul with bad wages unlike the Minimum Wage staff at some private facilities.

The fact is those hard working Texans you talk about can make more at McDonaldS without risking their life or go apply with TDCJ if they can pass the criminal records check and drug test. The truth is private prisons have a negative economic impact on the communities they are in by depleting social services, welfare, and local taxing districts.

Sorry for any job losses the private prisons may incur. TDCJ is hiring several thousand officers at a rate twice that of private prisons. TDCj has retirement benefits and health care, so employees are not sucking local hospital districts dry with indigent care, unlike private prisons. With TDCJ the money stays in Texas unlike these private prison corporations located in places like New Jersey, Utah, Florida, and Tennessee.

It sound as though you know someone who works at Dawson or Mineral Wells. If someone is losing their job at one of these facilities they can apply at www.tdcj.state.tx.us. TDCJ will give them a $3,000 bonus to relocate to a unit short of staff if they have trouble with relocating finances. A free dorm and meals are provided while at the TDCJ academy.

Anonymous said...

Well....it's easy to sit back and be soooo judgemental about how tdcj correctional officers getting a slap in the face 1% raise is putting so many Texans out of work.GET REAL WHOEVER YOU ARE! REALLY! The last decent raise we received was under Governor Ann Richards. All this raise did was put us in another higher tax bracket and by the time the insurance and all the other leeching blood suckers get through with it, we'll be lucky to get $30. Correctional officers put up with a lot of crap on a job that doesn't appreciate us. Remember, we put our life on the line everyday. Walk in our shoes for a day and then TALK!

Anonymous said...

Excuse me for not being clearer....TDCJ employees got a "slap in the face raise" and ALSO other hard working Texans were put out of a job......It was a LOSE-LOSE situation. The money that they were suppose to give to TDCJ employees went bye-bye, who can explain this? If I did not have a job I would never go to work for TDCJ, you can see by this that they don't give a crapola about thier CO's. Don't blame the private prison industry your enemys are in your own organization. (just alot higher up)

Elmas Mallo said...

What the public does not understand is that it takes a special person to stand their ground while an offender with 19 stab wounds comes flying in the air at you. Too many think that being a Texas Correctional Officer is a joke and people really just don't want to know until its too late and they find themselves incarcerated.
I am deeply saddened with the lack of respect from the State Legislature for these Correctional Officers and their continually given pauper wages.
These wages do not reflect the job's dangerous aspects and this ain't late night tv or a movie. Where is a cost of living raise for them too? Never gonna happen on this Legislature's watch...its becoming a joke on how many folks Governor Perry can put in the poor house. It is one more sign of the times for these brave and heroic Correctional Officers-LET THEM EAT FISH-HEADS!

Anonymous said...

For all you TDCJ people that was looking for that 14% raise when you put hard working c/o's out of a job you just shot your self in the foot!!! we are Texans just trying to put food on the table too and a roof over our heads for less money .it was nice to read travel cards of offender that assaulted officers and committed home evasions what a deadly weapon and got there class lowered so they can be sent to MW with no lock doors .But that was ok cause we worked as a team and watched out for our fellow Officers understaffed too thanks for your support!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Charlie Balthrop said...

Is the rumor true that the top Administrator Brad Livingston received a HUGE raise while the ones in the trenches scrambled to receive less than needed for cost of living?

Charlie Balthrop said...

Just trying to check on a rumor..didn't Brad Livingston who is top man for TDCJ receive a hefty pay raise?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Yes he did. See here.

Anonymous said...

I agree.... Ad Seg inmates are wild monkey's in cage, put them back with general population and see what apes are really like in a jungle... Texas public is blind... and so is the Texas government, keeping TDCJ's black sheep under the rug.

Anonymous said...

Welcome to the real world we make little money for a lot of dangerous work, will I stop"nope".The people who stir the pot will destroy thereselves, it's considered all a game as long as they don't have to walk the run or fight a battle where the odds are 100+ to 1.