Strike with your palms. Hit the chin, chest, and lower abdomen. Kick if you have to. So a training sergeant tells 75 out-of-breath and generally unfit cadets at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s training center, reports the Dallas Morning News. Assaults on prison guards and staffers have doubled in the last five years. Turnover at the second-largest prison system in the country is at a record level with one in four employees leaving the department last year. The workforce was down 3,935 employees at the end of August.
Corrections officials and prison experts blame the increase on everything from widespread staff shortages and low pay to a new breed of tougher criminals and prison overcrowding. There is one corrections officer for every 6.8 Texas prisoners; total inmate population is 152,000. A Morning News analysis of assaults at Texas prisons found inmate-on-guard attacks have gone up considerably in the last few years. More than three dozen staff assaults with weapons have been reported so far this year, up from just 18 in all of 2003. Those don’t include the higher number of offender-on-offender assaults that guards have to break up and police. More than 900 cases of inmates attacking inmates have also been reported this year, up more than 30 percent from 2002. Salaries for Texas prison guards start at $23,040 a year and max out at $33,948 – near the bottom of the scale nationally.