KCBD Investigates: TDCJ requests millions in funding to help with staffing crisis

Published: Oct. 12, 2022 at 6:27 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 12, 2022 at 6:29 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - The Texas Department of Criminal Justice predicts there will be an increase in inmates next fiscal year. This prediction comes as the agency works to fill thousands of vacant positions.

Bryan Collier is the executive director of TDCJ.

He presented the agency’s 2024-2025 legislative appropriations request in September.

“It is a heavy request as I have told many of you individually,” Collier said.

The agency requested an additional $1.39 billion dollars on top of its budget.

“Really, within every piece of TDCJ we are struggling to one, maintain existing staffing as well as recruiting new staffing,” Collier said.

Collier said TDCJ reached an all-time high vacancy of 8,043 correctional officers in February 2022, so the agency implemented a 15% pay raise for correctional officers to help combat critical staffing levels in April 2022.

“We have actually gained correctional officers every month since. Just to give you a point of reference, for at least the last three to four years prior to that, we were losing more officers every month than we were gaining. We have gone from over 8,000 vacancies pre 15% increase to just under 7,000 vacancies today.”

Collier said he wants to extend that pay raise into the next fiscal year, which will cost more than $374 million. Another $6.5 million would go to the Office of Inspector General.

“It would increase their positions to 35. 11 of which we have already had to add because of the increased number in criminal cases and contraband they have had to deal with,” Collier said.

TDCJ is reporting a big increase in number of criminal cases, along with some high-profile incidents of corrections officers caught trying to smuggle contraband into their facilities.

Correctional officer Gilma Parades had been with the department about seven months when officials said they caught her trying to smuggle more than 17 ounces of liquid PCP and more than 20 ounces of fentanyl into the Preston Smith Unit in Lamesa.

Investigators also searched her vehicle and said they found more than 30 ounces of liquid PCP and five ounces of liquid fentanyl.

Earlier this month, agents said a correctional officer at a unit near Dallas tried to sneak contraband into the facility.

In September, correctional staff said they caught two people trying to drop off illegal drugs and cell phones at a facility in Hondo.

The month before that, a correctional officer was arrested after investigators said they found drugs and cell phones in his car that they believe he was going to try to smuggle into a Gatesville prison.

“If you go back to FY 2019, there were about 9,300 criminal cases opened a year. This past year, there were 12,000. We have seen a significant increase in contraband and other items,” Collier said.

Now, it will be up to state lawmakers to approve the budget.