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Texas Looks to Find Prison Guards in High Schools

Any prison or jail needs three things: guards, prisoners and money. Texas has money, at least enough to build more prisons and jails than any other state; the last state budget allocated $200 million for even more lockups. To keep them full, lawmakers have expanded the imposition of money bail and extended pretrial detention. The challenge is finding guards.

Texas lockups, like those across the country, are notoriously understaffed; the job is dangerous, shifts are long and overtime is often required. Annual pay for a prison guard with the state Department of Criminal Justice (TDJC) starts at $42,000, yet TDCJ reports more than a quarter of the jobs are unfilled. So now the agency is shopping for new guards in high schools.

With low-skill jobs scarce, a student just out of high school with no college plans is a prime candidate for TDCJ. The Texas Education Agency has also included classes in the state school curriculum that teach how to restrain prisoners and provide first-aid in a cell. TDCJ has also hired a recruiter to foster relationships with high schoolers in these training programs—though they probably don’t cover research linking prison work to problems such as depression, PTSD, substance abuse and suicide.

Jeff Ormsby, Executive Director of the state chapter of the American Federation of State and County Municipal Employees—the union representing many state prison guards—pointed out that “dirty staff is a big problem” in TDCJ, so recruiting guards so young increases the risk they will give in to contraband-smuggling temptation.  


Sources: The Marshall Project, Texas Tribune

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