Texas correctional officers guard one of the nation’s largest state inmate populations but are plagued by a shortage of people willing to do the job, reports Morris News Service. It's a thankless but critical function. The pay is low, the hours are long, the conditions are grueling and the danger is constant. “If they say that Texas schoolteachers are underpaid, correctional officers don't stand a chance,” said Keith Price, a retired warden. “Prisons and prisoners are out of sight and out of mind. Correctional officers get that same kind of treatment.”
The state prison system is offering a $3,000 signing bonus for new guards in hopes of filling the latest in a series of shortages. The prisons department this year had 2,800 vacancies in an authorized complement of 25,778 full- and part-time guards. Those openings are driven by a turnover rate last fiscal year of nearly one in five guards. In June, the shortage forced prison officials to shutter four dorms, or 320 beds, temporarily in one prison. It was the first time the prison system closed part of a lockup since 2008. Correctional officers and jailers statewide make an average annual salary of about $34,880, some $8,500 below the national average, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.