Prisons go begging for guards
Lisa Sandberg: Express-News
Sometimes, she gets so scared that her knees shake.
“Usually, there should be two (additional correctional officers), at least,” the 13-year veteran said.
Far-flung Fort Stockton, the worst-staffed unit, operates with 59 percent of its correctional officers. Barfoot’s lockup in Amarillo operates with 76 percent of its allotted guard positions.
Thirteen of the 15 prisons with the most severe guard shortages are in towns with fewer than 15,000 people. Nine of those places have lost, not gained, residents since 2000, according to population figures.
Marty Turner, a field representative with the union AFSCME-CEC7 in the region that includes Dalhart, said the prison always is short-staffed because it has a tiny work force to draw from.
“There’s no help,” he said.
“Things are absolutely the worst I’ve seen ’em, and I’ve been (working in and around the prisons) since 1990,” Turner said.
“There certainly was political persuasion that came into place,” Polunsky said.
“We have no choice,” he said of those facilities. “We’re stuck with them.”
Last fall, because of the staffing shortage, officials at the Dalhart Unit closed an entire 300-bed dorm. Michelle Lyons, a prison spokeswoman, said there were no plans to reopen it.