Citing staffing shortages caused largely by low pay, the Anderson County Jail has
begun housing inmates in neighboring Henderson County – at a cost of nearly $37,000 a month.
Texas Commission of Jail Standards sets staffing requirements. Having
fallen below the state-specified officer-to-inmate ratio, Anderson
County was forced to find alternate housing for 35 inmates – and pay for
state standards, for example, four officers on the floor, one in
processing and one in the control booth can supervise 192 inmates.
Greg Taylor said he started talking to county commissioners again in
March and April about resolving the staffing issue. As of May 30, Taylor
said, the jail is down 12 jailers.
“The bottom line is the court
can help me some,” Taylor told the Herald-Press on Wednesday. “They
can't change the difficulty in recruiting people into this kind of work,
but they can fix my pay structure so that it's a little more alluring
“I've given them a plan that would cost about $70,000 to fix my jailer problem, increasing jailers start out pay to $30,000.”
To fix the entire salary issue for the sheriff' office, Taylor said, would cost a little under $200,000.
everyone got a pay raise, then I might maintain the deputies,
investigators, and jailers I have, and be able to attract people to fill
the positions we need to fill,” Taylor said.
Taylor said, the county jail could hold 240 inmates. The jail averages
170 to 200, but the numbers typically rise during summer.
been skating by without jailers, working a lot of overtime, for two or
three years now,” Taylor said. “...It's a constant battle. Overtime is
an issue. We probably spend $120,000 to $130,000 in overtime between
jailers and deputies.”
Taylor said pay and working conditions are among the reasons it's hard to attract people to work in the jail.
County has lost jailers to Henderson County, just 35 minutes away,
Taylor said, because it pays $34,000 a year and Taylor can offer only
$27,000 to start.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice also
competes for employees, Taylor said. TDCJ starts their corrections
officer at $32,000, with step pay. An officer who has worked at the
prison for three years makes about $38,000 Taylor said.
Judge, the Honorable Robert Johnston, told the Herald-Press Tuesday that
county officials are committed to resolving the issue of staff
shortages. We're looking into officers' pay and benefits,” he said.
problem is, the county has only a three-percent unemployment rate,” he
said. “Those who want to work are typically already working.”
of the problems is, fewer people these days want to be in law
enforcement,” Johnston said. “Across the board; the police department,
the jail, sheriff's office and Texas Department of Criminal Justice are
all below staffing requirements.”
Johnston said that, even when
candidates do apply, making the transition from civilian to officer is
not immediate, and it is not guaranteed.
“We're trying to recruit
as best we can,” Johnston said. “However, we've notice fewer and fewer
candidates are passing their background checks.”
Applicants with a felony on their record are disqualified. They must also undergo drug and credit checks.
Johnston said, the temporary housing of county inmates does not affect
the court's caseload. “In no way does it make our backlog of cases
worse,” he said.
Even so, many Anderson County inmates are separated from family members and children when housed at a county jail 35 miles away.
interested in being a jailer can pick up an application at the Anderson
County Sheriff's Office, located at 1200 E. Lacy St., Palestine.
Taylor said his office has three employees in the academy now who will graduate in July.
cost of house an inmates in Anderson County is approximately $35 to $37
a day. The cost to house an inmate in another facility is typically
around $42 to $45 a day. Taylor said Henderson County gave Anderson
County a deal: Housing inmates for only $35 a day for Anderson County
inmates, not including transportation costs.