© 2020 Texas Public Radio
Real. Reliable. Texas Public Radio.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Texas Has A High Turnover Rate For Prison Guards. Here's Why.

From Texas Standard:

Some industries tend to have higher employee turnover than others, like meter readers, fast-food workers, telemarketing and customer service representatives – and prison guards.

When it comes to turnover, things are so bad in the Texas prison system that it’s being called a mass exodus. Now some are sounding alarm bells about staffing levels at many Texas prisons.

Keri Blakinger, a reporter at the Houston Chronicle, says the job turnover rate was 28 percent in the last fiscal year, which was an uptick from a high rate the year before.

“Traditionally the narrative has been that it’s oil and gas that draws potential officers away from prison jobs, but in fact there seem to be more factors than that at play,” Blakinger says.

She says one issue is that many prisons are located in rural areas without a large base of workers to draw from, and another is that potential employees are often hired by local businesses instead.

“One of the areas that saw a particularly high turnover rate I think was in the Dalhart area, where there’s a cheese factory that went in just after the prison went in,” she says.

Low compensation is another big factor in the turnover rate. Blakinger says the salaries start around $32,000 and rise to around $43,000 over seven years.

“[State] Sen. John Whitmire said that was, you know, something that needs fixing, but people don’t want to spend money in Austin,” she says. “So that was his take on what would be the solution to this high turnover.”

The job vacancy rate for prison guards is around 12 percent, but Blakinger says staffing levels aren’t dangerously low.

Written by Jen Rice.

Copyright 2020 KUT 90.5. To see more, visit KUT 90.5.