Texas prison guards and state parole officers would get big pay raises under a two-year budget proposal by prison officials, the largest such increases in decades, reports the Austin American-Statesman. The raises, which average 20 percent, would cost $453 million. News of the proposal drew cheers from employees in Texas’ 106-prison system, where correctional officers for years have been working short-staffed and for pay that ranks near the lowest in the country. There are about 24,700 correctional officers and 1,400 parole officers in Texas.
The proposal would raise starting pay for correctional officers from $26,016 to $30,179 and the maximum salaries from $34,624 to $42,242. Texas prisons have been short of guards for several years, so short that officials within the past year have had to close parts of some prisons. Without proper staffing, convicts must be confined to their cells more than they should be, programs have to be suspended, and conditions inside prisons generally become more undesirable – for guards and convicts. The shortage of officers reached a crisis point 11 months ago, when the agency had 3,978 vacancies.