Saturday, February 03, 2018

Entry-level TDCJ wage hikes exacerbate TJJD staffing problems

At the Dallas News, Lauren McGaughy has a story that reaches to the heart of problems at the Texas Juvenile Justice Department, even if it's an aspect of the crisis state officials have been loathe to address: Low pay and poor working conditions, exacerbated by siting youth prisons in rural areas with limited labor pools, contribute to a nearly unmanageable situation where up to 40 percent of staff turn over every year.

Now, Texas adult prisons have increased starting pay to stave off their own high turnover rates, and the result is that juvenile facilities are no longer competitive. There's already a lot of migration back and forth between adult and juvenile facilities, but this change ensures that migration will flow only in one direction.

This is not a problem one fixes by firing managers, much less watchdogs. It requires ponying up money, which the Legislature has been unwilling to do. Indeed, if new spending is required either way, IMO it'd be better to follow Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's lead and invest in smaller facilities near urban areas based modern best practices. Just increasing pay to try to attract workers to undesirable jobs in rapidly depopulating rural areas strikes this writer as a fool's errand.

State leaders have an opportunity to re-imagine the juvenile justice system in a way that reduces both incarceration and recidivism. Between the understaffing crisis at youth prisons, the sexual assault charges against an increasing number of staff, the need to implement federal prison-rape regulations at county jails, and the bipartisan push to raise the age at which youth may be prosecuted as adults (a measure which passed the Texas House each of the last two sessions), there's a nexus of opportunity here to install a global fix that sets juvenile justice in Texas on a more stable, long-term path.

But they're blowing it. The desire to appear tough has so far trumped the desire to be smart. And because state leaders have paid no political cost for living in denial, they haven't addressed these more fundamental problems, of which the sex-abuse scandals are simply a recurring symptom. In the long run, as I've written before, Texas state leaders are on the wrong side of History. And these staffing shortages at TJJD show History may soon catch up to them.

See prior, related Grits coverage:


Anonymous said...

Starting JCO pay and the career ladder are attractive. The poor working conditions, and lack of effective programing has led to the very high turnover rate.

Anonymous said...

This is from Grits for Breakfast November 2017. Pay Wasn't the problem at TJJD:
The main positives about the agency were that pay and especially benefits were good for the jurisdiction. But the various negative critiques mounted up. Here's a short compilation of some of the more negative comments made by TJJD employers about their jobs:
•very dangerous environment with little to no troop support.
•we should have been paid more for the crap we had to deal with
•Unsafe environment to work in, Messy Cliques, No appreciation shown to the employees.
•Morale is the lowest in seven years.
•The stress level can often run high. The turn-over rate tends to be high so there are some issues involved with maintaining veteran, well-trained staff. These positions are not for the faint of heart or those who can be easily manipulated.
•Short staffed. Mandatory overtime that you're not paid for.
•The workplace has a negative culture and the state is constantly threatening to close down the facilities.
•Safety is at risk.
•Unsafe work environment. Management is clueless and uncaring. Employees are treated as pawns to be used for coverage. Poor attendance by coworkers is not addressed and employees often have to work 12 hour to 16 hour shifts as you cant leave unless management can find a replacement for you at the end of your shift.
•This is the most racist place I have ever seen. It is full of hateful and negative teachers and administrators , which they likely keep around. Most if them call the kids trash and have no real desire to help them. Your treatment is based on how well you suck up or sleep around.
•Expectations are high and those that genuinely care for the youth can find themselves doing the work of two or three.
One employee offers this disgruntled assessment:

In this company there aren't any pros, unless you are in with the "in" crowd, the morale at the company is very low and that's from management down. As a clerk, there is no room for improvement, no training. There are basically no pros for working for this agency.

A lot of work for one person, no career ladder, no room for improvement, self taught.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@8:47, Those were from the Glass Door, not my words, fwiw. Also, the TDCJ pay hike that created the differential happened AFTER that post.