Texas’ longstanding shortage of prison guards has evaporated significantly to the lowest numbers in more than a decade, thanks to a struggling economy, pay incentives, and a drop in the number of inmates, reports the Austin American-Statesman. For the first time since 1998, the vacancy rate of correctional officers at the state’s 112 adult prisons has dropped to about 5 percent – with just 1,262 jobs now open, compared with more than 3,700 openings just over a year ago.
In other states, budget shortfalls are forcing officials to close prisons, lay off guards and, in some cases, release hundreds of convicts on parole. States including New York, Michigan, Nevada, Washington, Kansas, and Georgia have closed or proposed closing at least 38 prisons in recent months – with more cuts expected to follow. In California, which operates the only prison system in the U.S. larger than Texas’, officials are considering prison closures because of a state budget crisis.