They’re accused of fighting with their families, getting drunk in public, writing hot checks, driving drunk, and getting caught with illegal drugs. They’re arrested on accusations of murdering, setting fire, stealing, laundering money, smuggling illegal immigrants, even robbing a bank or impersonating a police officer. Texas officials made public a list of state corrections employees who have been arrested during the past three years. The data were released under the Texas Public Information Act four days after the Austin American-Statesman disclosed that at least 761 employees of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice were listed by the agency as having been arrested during 2005. Another 148 arrests were logged during the first two months of this year. If the arrests continue at their current pace, they would set an annual record.
“It’s clear we need to look into this issue in more detail,” said state Rep. Jerry Madden, chairman of the House Corrections Committee. The number of employee arrests has steadily climbed during the past decade to a record 781 in 2003. Correctional staff members suggest that the growing arrest rates highlight a need to increase the pay scale for correctional officers. Texas ranks 47th in the nation, starting trainees at about $22,000 a year. Kathy Walt, press secretary to Gov. Rick Perry, said, “You would expect those who are guarding not to be on probation or charged with the same crimes as the inmates.”