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Now, the southeast region of the state which is far from the currently most active oil and gas fields is experiencing rising officer turnover rates close to 37 percent, the highest in Texas.TDCJ facilities in Jefferson and Liberty counties saw turnover rates of 36 and 31 percent, respectively, according to data from the Texas State Auditor's Office, which is broken down by region and county but not by facility."There's other job opportunities opening up in rural Texas." Data from the Texas State Auditor's Office show a marked increase over the previous year, when 22.8 percent of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice's roughly 26,000 officers left for other jobs.At the same time, department vacancy rates have crept up again to over 12 percent, with 3,207 jobs unfilled.
Over the past five years, staffing shortages forced the department to mothball about 1,900 beds, according to TDCJ numbers.
Whitmire concurred, pointing out other potential troubles that stem from low income offerings.
"The low pay is a problem in terms of the increase in contraband," he said.
"From 2012 to 2014, [turnover] was becoming pretty acute and especially where fracking was kind of big," said Scott Henson, policy director with the nonprofit Just Liberty.
Then, "it was more than just a vague correlation." Five years ago, the Mc Connell and Connally units both in counties that lie partially on the Eagle Ford Shale had just over 40 percent vacancy, according to Business & Finance Division data.
They've also started offering $4,000 recruitment bonuses at 25 units particularly hard-hit by staffing problems.