Violence Increases as Staffing in Texas Prisons


  Huntsville, Texas - Staffing and violence for Texas prisons has hit a
critical point, with the Texas prison system over 4,300 officers short.  
According to Brian Olsen who heads Texas largest correctional
association, AFSCME Council 7, “Our members are expressing TDCJ is
in grave danger, due to a shortage of experienced officers and trained
  Members of the AFSCME organization have recently reported to their
organization an increase in prison violence.  One such incident was the
murder of an inmate at the Polunsky Unit in Livingston, Texas this past
week, where the unit was understaffed.  
  In a separate incident at the Wynne Unit in Huntsville, over 32 inmates
devised a plan to take over the unit in a mass escape attempt.  The plot
was a few hours from going down, before a 14 pages escape plan was
found by an officer at the unit.  The plan described a plot where officers
would  be murdered by strangulation, and their uniforms taken by the
inmates on the unit.
  AFSCME’s office in Huntsville, stated “the plan was very sophisticated
in nature, and may have worked if not discovered.  The plan included
maps, radio codes used by prison officials, ranking officer’s radio call
numbers, and they even had the warden’s home phone number.  The
plan listed officers who would be killed for their uniforms due to clothing
sizes and shoes sizes.”
  According to Brian Olsen, “this kind of activity is very scary in nature
due to major staff shortages and the lack of proactive action on the part
of the state.  The inmates can look around the units and see they are
  A letter was sent to Governor Perry back in January which called for a
10% emergency raise for all TDCJ uniform employees.  Since the letter,
the Board of Criminal Justice has only issued a raise for rookie officers.
   The Wynne Unit over the last year has seen its share of violence and
escapes with the murder of TDCJ Correctional Officer Susan Canfield
back in September 24, 2007.  Officer Canfield was killed during the
escape of two TDCJ inmates, John Ray Falk and Jerry Duane Martin,
who now face a trial for capital murder, after being indicted back in
  A Texas Senate hearing will be held in Austin June 4, 2008 to discuss
these staffing issues and corruption at TDCJ units statewide.  Testimony
will be heard from several TDCJ officials on these crisis issues.
  The American Federation of State County Municipal Employees
(AFSCME) has stated “the solution for solving TDCJ problems is pretty
simple.  TDCJ should negotiate and empower their employees as
required by Senate Bill 909.  TDCJ has refused to meet in direct
negotiations with the employee’s union.  It makes good management
sense to empower your employees.  An adequate pay raise of 15%
would alleviate many employees financial needs as gas and other
necessities increase.  24% of all TDCJ officers go on strike every year
by quitting.  All we want is fair pay and treatment.”