Amid a nationwide worker shortage in various industries, prison systems are desperate to reverse an exodus of corrections officers that administrators and experts describe as the worst ever. To attract more officers, states are raising salaries, offering hiring bonuses, reducing the minimum age to 18 and ratcheting up recruiting efforts with advertisements on billboards and social media, Stateline reports. Like more than a dozen other states, Texas does not provide air-conditioning in many of its prison cells and dormitories.
People incarcerated in Texas have told family members that staff shortages have impeded the delivery of ice and water to un-air-conditioned cells and dormitories and prevented the speedy transfer of heat-stressed inmates to air-conditioned respite areas. Prison jobs may be stable and recession-proof but also potentially dangerous, with an ever-present threat of violence. In February, 8,043 of the 24,020 jobs inside the Texas correctional system were vacant, an all-time high. A recent pay raise has helped lower that number to just under 7,000. Bryan Collier, executive director of the agency, said staffing remains the “most significant operational issue.”