Friday, March 19, 2010

Are TDCJ staffing gains partly illusion?

While TDCJ reports that the number of vacant correctional officer slots in Texas prisons is down to just over 500, from a crisis-level high of around 4,000 not long ago, The Back Gate website says that's partly an illusion:
In a report obtained from the Texas Board of Criminal Justice ... TDCJ leaders claim the agencies [staffing] situation is now brighter. Brad Livingston, TDCJ's executive director, stated that just a year ago the agency had nearly 4,000 vacant Correctional Officer positions open. Now he states there are only 512 open. The reasoning behind the jump in applicants was blamed on the current slump in the economy and the accompanying layoffs in many other fields.

This situation has prompted agency leaders to institute new hiring standards for incoming correctional staff that will center around physical fitness. Soon applicants must be able to run a specified distance within a time limit, and complete other physical fitness standards before even being offered employment. Those employees then must re-qualify on a yearly basis to retain that employment.

Although Correctional Officer numbers are looking good on paper, many TDCJ facilities statewide are still mandating staff to work overtime, canceling days off, and even cutting back on some internal facility movement due to the lack of staffing. The TDCJ staffing plan that was unveiled statewide almost a year ago took Correctional Officer slots off of unit rosters in most cases. It made it appear that there were enough staff on duty, when in fact it actually meant changing the required numbers to reflect that less were needed to do the same work done previously. A smoke and mirrors act if you will that has not only made it harder to run those facilities, but also created a dangerous situation for staff members who must bear the burden of those vacant positions.
It'd be interesting to examine side-by-side staffing ratios under both the old staffing plan and the new one at each unit to see the extent to which improved staffing really results from artificially reducing denominators.

Another, related post (Back Gate posts regrettably don't have permalinks) informs us that:
The numbers for 2009 representing hiring and separation of TDCJ employees has been recently released to the Backgate Website. TDCJ’s Region III lead the state in Officer turnover for 2009. Region III hired 1,263 for the year, but lost 1,091. That total amounted to only retaining a mere 172 hired employees for the year. Region I, who lead the state in hiring employees in 2009 with 2,327, lost 1,502 retaining 825 Officers for the year. The average time employed by a leaving Correctional Officer for Region I was 3.4 years. The average experience level of employee lost from Region III was 4.1 years on average.

TDCJ hired a total of 8,375 Correctional staff members in 2009, but lost a total of 5,780. That means they ended up with only 2,592 positions filled out of hiring 8,375 people.


Anonymous said...

THAT is the problem, is that TDCJ trainers emphasize physical fitness instead of social skills as the standards for employment. They train how to combat inmates physically, when most officers who are hired are females who, along with the men, are going to run off the block at the first sight of a riot or other altercation. The reason why TDCJ has been so ineffective is because officers lack the social skills necessary to do the job and to do it efficiently and effectively -- that is part of the culture of the department from the administrators down through the trainers and to the officers on the cell blocks.

Anonymous said...

Grits, has there ever been a report are information presented by CJAD on the number of unfilled Probation Officer positions in the state? It would be interesting too know if probation departments are having the same problem.

Anonymous said...

This just goes to show you that TDCJ administrators will do anything to keep the public in the dark about how secure Texas Prisons really are. But then who really cares. If people really want to know just how bad it is go to or the backgate web sites.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@8:19 - I've not seen it (or don't recollect it), if so. Of course, each CSCD is locally controlled.

Marie T said...

First hand knowledge about one unit, they are on lockdown with sack dinners from 1:30 to 10:30 most days because not enough CO's reporting to work. IMO this is because they have cut overtime to meet budget constraints. comments are spot on - smoke and mirrors.

I agree physical fitness may not be the most important qualification in some units, people skills are needed. There will be an even greater turnover if these yearly standards are really upheld. Any organization or company suffers and loses money with high turnover.

sunray's wench said...

The Backgate have been doing some good investigation recently into how it really is on the ground. The consensus seems to be that positions have been reduced so that units can claim that they are more fully staffed. This cannot be continued though, a prison cannot run for long on a reduced staff before tension spills over (either with staff or inmates).

I get the feeling that Brad Livingston is just trying to hang on til the next Legislature session, at which point his buddies will waste as much time as possible in making everyone think TDCJ is fine and the Gov will veto anything that comes close to saying it isn't.

Hook Em Horns said...


Linda said...

Give me the 11 billion dollars and I will correct their problems.These people have no common sense. They need to segregate all- those doing life and for violent crimes such as murder, armed robbery, rape ect.. into specific units and those in for non violent crimes such as drug offences into another. Child Molestsrs into another. This way you will not have to hire as many officers. As it is now all units have to have a high security level and more officers because they have those with violent offences mixed in with those who have non violent offences such as DUI's forging checks etc.It would not only save them money but would cut down on violence within the prison. Put the money saved for education or treatment programs.

pomodoro said...

How can I access these numbers? Does TDCJ publish employment/staffing figures somewhere? I tried looking on Backgates but couldn't track it down. Thank you!