Leaders of the Texas prison employee union say that officials are leaving prisons dangerously understaffed, the Texas Tribune reports. Last week, they renewed calls for better pay, noting that the holiday season is a particularly dangerous time in the prisons. Prison officials agreed there are staffing problems in particular units, but said that the facilities are secure.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice has faced staffing shortages in the last year. In June, it closed parts of one prison and moved inmates to other facilities because of a 40-percent vacancy rate. In October, the union told Gov. Rick Perry that the organization had found the state short more than 2,700 officers. Union leaders and prison officials agree that the shortage in some parts of the state is partially due to the growth of the oil and gas industry, which has created private sector jobs that compete with prisons for workers. "When they can go out and drive a truck for twice as much as they'd make in the prison,” said union head Lance Lowry, “it creates a large vacuum.”