Texas correctional officers are crying foul after state lawmakers approve a budget which only gives them a five-percent raise over the next two years.
AFSCME president Lance Lowry says lower pay leads to lower quality, and gaps within the prison system.
“The vacancies are almost 3,000 and its not getting any better,” Lowry tells KTRH News. “A lot of officers are leaving the prison system to go work in the oil fields making twice as much.”
Lowry says unfortunately, some guards who do stick around turn to dirty deeds to make ends meet.
“You have a few limited people who don't always have the most ethical approach or are not there for the right reasons,” he says. “The pay definitely ties in to corruption aspects.”
State Senator John Whitmire says he's on the guards' side, adding the current atmosphere leads to corruption.
“The pay and benefits are so low it does encourage contraband,” says the Houston Democrat. “You can take cigarettes illegally into the prison and make more in a month than your state salary.”
The chairman of the Senate's Criminal Justice Committee says he'd like to overhaul the whole system.
“If I was totally in charge I'd raise the standards,” he says. “I would require physical agility tests, you've got a lot of correctional officers overweight and unhealthy, I could go on and on.”
Whitmire says he has fought to give guards raises, but he's outnumbered in Austin. He says its time the guards jump into politics and start endorsing more candidates who will work with them.