Eliminating most overtime pay for Texas prison guards may contribute to a rising turnover rate that could compromise safety as guards are forced to work more hours to cover thousands of vacancies, the Houston Chronicle reports. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice tightened controls on overtime in March 2003 so that it paid only 240 hours of “comp” time each year. The savings were immense. Correctional officers clocked 2.6 million hours of overtime worth $36.1 million in fiscal 2002, but that dropped last year to 135,000 hours of overtime worth $2 million.
The virtual elimination of overtime pay and the stress that comes with a job that pays a top salary of $2,589 a month make it more difficult to keep prisons fully staffed. “It worries me, and I suspect it worries people in charge of these prisons. It creates additional stress on those who are there,” said Dan Beto of the Correctional Management Institute of Texas at Sam Houston State University. Last year, 5,511 correctional officers, or 21 percent of the work force, quit. Five Texas prisons had more than 100 correctional officer vacancies as of Jan. 31. The five are among the largest in the state’s more than 150,000-inmate system.