Staffing shortages force Brownfield state prison to temporarily shutdown

State-wide staffing shortages to blame, local economy to take a hit
Published: Oct. 13, 2021 at 9:50 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 14, 2021 at 2:54 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - The Texas Department of Criminal Justice has decided to temporarily close the Jim Rudd unit in Brownfield. The unit will be idle as of Nov. 1.

Its 100-plus inmates and 140 employees will be scattered across the state by then.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice facility has been a part of the area’s economy since the 1990s.

“It’s been a good asset for 30 years and we hate to lose that partnership with the state,” Brian Brisendine said.

Brisendine is director of the Brownfield Industrial Development Corporation, or BIDCorp, as it’s known locally.

According to TDCJ, the inmates will be sent to other unspecified units in the state and most staff will be transferred to the Smith unit in Lamesa, about 40 minutes to the south. However, the agency will maintain a small presence at the facility. It’s unclear how long the shutdown could last.

Brisendine says that while not every employee lived in town, their absence will be felt by the business community.

“Your service businesses, your restaurants, your gas stations, they will all feel some effect from it. I can’t tell you today with any certainty how much of an effect, but any time you lose jobs like that, there is a negative effect. We’ll just have to gauge that and mitigate it,” he said.

City and county officials learned of the temporary closure this week.

“It really is a staffing shortage statewide. They’ve been running these prisons, bussing employees in and out and I guess they just decided that they couldn’t do that any longer economically,” Brisendine said.

A TDCJ representative could only say that “[it] has ample capacity elsewhere in the state to house [the] inmates” when asked for a reason for the decision.

Meanwhile, the city will need to find a use for the empty detention center other than for confinement.

“These facilities are built to be prisons. They’re not wide open spaces, they’re designed to contain, not to construct,” Brisendine said.

But he says they’ve rolled with the punches before and will do it again.

“We’ve weathered storms in the past, we’ve had large employers leave. Every West Texas community has been through the booms and the busts of the oil field,” he said. “Ironically, bringing this prison here was to bring jobs from some other closures that we had suffered. We’ll continue to try to do the same thing.”

The city is now looking towards the future, building a new school that will focus on adult education and trade programs, to help strengthen the workforce.

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