HOUSTON CHRONICLE – KERI BLAKINGER
Texas prisons are shedding officers with a staggering 28 percent turnover rate in the last fiscal year, a “mass exodus” that some experts say stems from a strengthening economy and recovering oil and gas sector.
“A lot of these guys don’t want to work in a prison,” said Lance Lowry, a spokesman for the Huntsville-based Texas Correctional Employees union. “There’s other job opportunities opening up in rural Texas.”
Data from the Texas State Auditor’s Office show a marked increase over the previous year, when 22.8 percent of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s roughly 26,000 officers left for other jobs. At the same time, department vacancy rates have crept up again to over 12 percent, with 3,207 jobs unfilled.
“When the economy is doing well and growing is typically when we see correctional officers leave for better paying jobs,” said TDCJ spokesman Jason Clark. “The more rural areas tend to be more challenging, particularly in South Texas when we’ve seen an uptick in oil and gas jobs being offered.”