The Texas State Legislature seems to think that the salary for the Correctional staff that work at the Correctional Institutions is appropriate. Those that work for TDCJ, understand that the hiring practices that are currently in place are generally not attracting 'Professional' personnel. There have been numerous occasions when a member of the State Legislature sets out on a 'fact finding mission' and visits one of the many prisons around Texas. On these occasions, the Wardens are given a "head's up" about the visit and movement through certain areas by offenders is either restricted, or additional Security Personnel is channeled to the affected areas for the safety of the visiting official. Areas that we Correctional Officers travel through many times on a daily basis, unescorted. An email was sent to Texas Senator Kirk Watson asking for his support for the upcoming proposed salary increase for TDCJ personnel. This is the text of his reply: "Thank you for your correspondence regarding a pay increase for criminal justice employees. I appreciate you sharing your views with me. In May 2008 the Texas Board of Criminal Justice approved a salary raise that would increase the pay for a starting correctional officer by 10 percent to $2,118 a month. This also increased the pay for an officer with six months of experience to $2,378.83 a month. A $1,500 bonus was also added for officers hired after April 1, 2008. Thanks again for your correspondence and your service. Do not hesitate to call on me if I can be of any assistance in the future." We are not asking for an increase in salary so that we can buy expensive vehicles, build lavish houses or go on month long around the world vacations. The reason for the requested salary increase is two-fold. First, for those in this thankless and often forgotten profession to be able to maintain a 'middle class' lifestyle without having to work 2 and sometimes 3 jobs just to pay rent and keep food on the table. Second, to attract a more professionally minded individual to work for the Agency. The current salary ladder, posted below for comparison, generally attracts individuals that are either trying to get off of unemployment, in between jobs or cannot find anything better. A survey was made recently of 3 counties in the State of Texas to make salary comparisons of similar occupations. From the web site for Harris County's Correctional staff, A first year Corrections Officer base salary starts at $2,569/mo and the maximum base schedule at 9+ years is 3,638/mo. From Travis County's Human Resources Department, the beginning salary for Corrections $2813/mo. After the probationary 1st year, the salary increases to $3,228/mo. The next rung on the ladder is $3,508/mo after passing senior CO test senior CO 2. If no other advancement tests/promotions are taken the senior CO reaches the top of the salary schedule of $4,848/mo at 22 yrs. According to Tarrant County's Human Resources Department, their Detention Officers begin on their salary ladder at $2,693/mo, after 6 mos the pay increases to $2,804/mo then has increases every year until the max base salary is achieved approximately 5 1/2 years later at $3,359/mo. *note: these departments offer additional monthly bonuses for college degrees and/or bilingual ability. those bonuses are not offered for TDCJ personnel. Now, let's compare the TDCJ base Salary schedule, located on the TDCJ web site. CO I $2,168.00 0 - 2 months of service CO II $2,295.00 3 - 8 months of service CO III $2,428.83 9 - 14 months of service CO III $2,567.18 15 - 30 months of service CO IV $2,641.51 31 - 42 months of service CO IV $2,717.60 43 - 54 months of service CO IV $2,799.55 55 - 90 months of service CO V $2,885.36 91+ months of service *note: these are the base salary schedules and do not include hazardous duty pay/longevity pay. What we are asking for is a competitive salary schedule to attract professionals to staff the Prisons and State Jails that we are responsible to maintain secure. With the added incentive to attract professional individuals, the quality of applicant significantly increases as well. Not to mention the ability to weed out those that do not fit the criteria for thorough background checks, physical fitness requirements etc. In the next Legislative Appropriations Request, when the 81st Legislative Session convenes in January 2009, a request will be made for a 20% average salary increase for Correctional Officers, Laundry Managers and Correctional Supervisors. In closing, after the recent flurry of interest in the quality of the Corrections Officers that work for the State of Texas, wouldn't it be prudent for the State to take care to ensure that the best quality and most dependable candidates are attracted to work for the largest State Agency in Texas As it stands, people come to work for TDCJ, gain experience, then leave to other opportunities that offer a much more attractive salary and benefits package. At the rate that the turnover is going, we are fighting a losing battle against an ever increasing tide in the rise of offenders being sentenced to serve their time in the very institutions that are understaffed.
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