Turnover among Texas corrections officers has been on the rise since 2006, and in oil-rich regions in the state, where the energy boom has sparked an explosion of high-wage job growth, finding and keeping prison employees has become difficult, reports the Texas Tribune. Desperation to retain employees has prompted an unusual approach at one South Texas prison unit, which is offering dirt-cheap on-campus housing — as low as $25 a month — to make the cost of living in such nouveau riche communities manageable. Department of Criminal Justice officials plan to offer similar options at prison units across the state in oil-rich regions.
Such recruiting tools are fast becoming a necessity. At one prison, the turnover rate skyrocketed from 28 percent in 2006 to 62 percent in 2012. As turnover spiked, so did the rate of violent incidents in the prison, growing from about 12 incidents per 100 inmates in 2006 to more than 30 incidents per 100 inmates five years later. It's a trend mirrored at other prison units that are near shale deposits and the refineries that process the oil harvested from them. “We can't compete with the private sector in these critical areas,” said Bill Stevens, the director of the department's correctional institutions division. The Department of Criminal Justice currently has 3,304 corrections officer vacancies throughout its 109 prison units. The agency has left roughly 1,400 prison beds empty since 2012 because of staff shortages.