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No One Wants to be a Prison Guard in Texas: Lack of Guards Means Moving Inmates and There’s Talk of Closing Down Some Texas Prisons – But That’s For a Different Reason

No matter what the state of the economy may be, doesn’t look like there are many people out there who are willing to take jobs as guards in Texas jails and prisons these days. No surprise, given what those jobs entail (read more about the heat, and the pay, and more here.)

However, things are getting more serious in the State of Texas as this shortage of guards means that facilities aren’t functioning at even minimum levels of acceptability – and the Powers that Be are now in the process of moving prisoners in guard-strapped prisons elsewhere.

Guard Shortages Mean Texas Prison Officials Are Moving Hundreds of Inmates to Other Jail Facilities Around the State

This month, prison officials are moving hundreds of people out of the Smith Unit in Lamesa, Texas, and the Ware Unit in Colorado City. Both facilities are located up in the hot, dry Texas panhandle and each of them has been operating with 50% guards needed (on a guard to inmate ratio).  Seems that they cannot find people willing to take jobs at these two prisons at the annual starting pay of $28,000 even with a standing offer of a $3000 sign-on bonus.

How many inmates are getting moved?

Smith Unit is relocating 200 men and Colorado City is moving out 400 inmates.  It’s not the first time that relocation has been done in a Texas prison because of the inability to find guards for the facility:  earlier this year, down in Kenedy, Texas, the Connally Unit relocated 696 inmates because of a guard shortage.

Closing Texas Jails: But Motivation Not For Prison Safety – It’s All About Location, Location, Location

Now, we learn that prison administrators are considering closing down Texas jails in their entirety in order to tighten the budgetary belt.  For those in Dallas, this may be big news because one of the facilities that is being discussed right now is closing the Dawson State Jail here in Dallas as well as the Mineral Wells Transfer Facility.  Seems their problem isn’t not enough guards, but not enough inmates.

Both of these are private jails, operated by the Corrections Corporation of America, and it’s not the first time that there’s been talk about shutting down the Dawson State Jail.  However, that wasn’t because of any jail budgetary considerations: back in 2008, the chatter was all about the primo location spot that Dawson State Jail offered to land developers.   There’s still lots of drooling down at City Hall and other places over what could be done on that Dawson State Jail tract.

Will Dallas see the Dawson State Jail and the Mineral Wells Facility shut down?

Maybe so: the union that represents Texas jail employees (like the prison guards) is all for it. And, there’s precedent:  just last year, Sugarland’s Central Unit was shut down despite operating since 1909 and having made a name for itself in the annals of Texas History as the jail sung about in the popular song “Midnight Special.”

Why was the Sugarland facility shut down?  Not enough guards? Nope.  Because the land was more valuable to be developed into other things. Which means that Dawson State Jail’s days are probably numbered given it’s primo location there on the Trinity River.


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