The $453 million pay raise proposal for correctional officers and their parole counterparts is part of the agency’s $6.8 billion two-year appropriations request that was approved by the Texas Board of Criminal Justice (TBCJ) in August and will be submitted to the state legislature in January. Pay raises for all staff are being supported as well.
“We feel that the cornerstone, without a doubt, of this budget request is an investment in our frontline staff with respect to those who provide the frontline day-to-day public safety for the state of Texas,” TDCJ Executive Director Brad Livingston told TBCJ members. “We will work vigorously for the pay package along with the other items in our budget request.”
Board Chairman Oliver Bell voiced strong support for the 20 percent pay proposal that won unanimous approval from the board.
“This proposal is innovative and emblematic of the creativity of our agency leaders,” he said. “We have a public organization looking at market strategies and attempting to address a critical problem in an innovative way. If the state leaders who oversee our efforts choose to adopt our submission, we believe we have designed a comprehensive program to address recruiting, retention and professional development.”
Livingston said the agency has made headway in recent months in reducing its correctional officer shortage by boosting entry-level salaries and offering $1,500 bonuses to recruits agreeing to work at an understaffed facility for at least one year. He said the shortage peaked in September 2007 at nearly 4,000 but has since dropped to approximately 3,000.
“Those steps have made a difference,” Livingston said. “We are beginning to see some progress in our staffing numbers… I think that movement in the numbers also indicates that salary adjustments can and do matter.”
Under the proposal, starting pay for correctional officers would rise from $26,016 a year to $30,179, while maximum salaries would go from $34,624 to $42,242. The pay increases would apply to the positions of correctional officer through warden. Starting pay for parole officers, both district and institutional, would increase from $32,277 annually to $37,441 and the maximum salary would rise from $36,363 to $43,636.
Presently, approximately 23,000 men and women work as TDCJ correctional officers while about 1,400 work as parole officers.
Agency administrators believe higher salaries would not only attract additional officers, but also help retain them. Overall, turnover rates for correctional officers and parole officers were approximately 24 percent and 19 percent, respectively, in 2007.
“It will help retain our current staff, recruit new officers and overall would send a positive message to our employees that we value their dedication to protecting the safety of the citizens of Texas,” Chairman Bell said about the 20 percent pay raise proposal.
Livingston said all TDCJ employees are deserving of pay raises.
“The agency’s legislative appropriations request expresses our support for across-the-board pay raises, and we will continue to advocate for higher compensation for all TDCJ staff throughout the remainder of the year and during the legislative session,” he said. “Every TDCJ employee makes a vital contribution to the agency’s mission of providing public safety, promoting positive change in offender behavior, reintegrating offenders into society and assisting victims of crime, and it is our desire that the hard work and dedication of all employees be rewarded.”
The agency’s two-year appropriations request includes additional funding for offender health care, for security upgrades to include additional surveillance and contraband screening equipment, for converting the former Veterans Affairs hospital in Marlin into a TDCJ health care facility, and for the expansion of treatment and reentry programs.