Texas corrections leaders concerned about staffing in response to governor’s call for jailers to help at border

Published: Jun. 29, 2021 at 10:08 PM CDT
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - As the State of Texas surges resources into border communities, state correctional leaders are worried the governor’s call for current and former jailers to help man border detention facilities could make the state’s shortage of correctional officers worse.

“Most jails across the state are already short-handed because of the issues we’re having hiring people into law enforcement currently, and we’re worried about our staffing,” said Maj. Ricky Armstrong, president of the Texas Jail Association (TJA).

Gov. Greg Abbott issued the statewide call for jailers to assist border sheriffs with increased arrests related to the border crisis over the weekend.

“The State of Texas will not tolerate criminal activity, which is why we are stepping up to address this crisis in the Biden administration’s absence,” Abbott said in the statement. “Part of our comprehensive efforts to secure the border include enforcing all state and federal laws, which is why we are calling on jailers and sheriffs across the state to volunteer support for our border sheriffs.”

Armstrong, who runs the McLennan County Jail, says there’s lots of questions surrounding the governor’s call for help from the corrections community.

“What type of facilities is he asking to be manned? Is it going to be a jail, is it going to be a prison? How is it going to be funded? Where are we going with this?” he asked.

By far the biggest questions and concerns in the industry surround staffing, he says.

“What’s the pay going to be, are we going to lose staff to go to the border, especially some of our younger staff,” he said.

Armstrong hasn’t had an employee leave as of yet.

“I would hope they don’t, I hope they think about their long-term career staying with the County,” said Armstrong. “We’re going to be dealing with this (the border) for years, but the temporary holding facilities, I don’t think, is going to be a long-term issue.”

The Texas Commission on Law Enforcement referred questions about border-jailer pay to the governor’s office.

KWTX reached out to Abbott’s press office Tuesday afternoon and is awaiting a response.

Armstrong says most jail officials across the state are in support of border security and protection, they just want the details to be laid out.

”I really haven’t heard anyone say it’s a bad idea, I think it’s a great concept,” said Armstrong. “I have no issues helping on the border and helping the Governor secure our borders, I think we need that, how that’s going to be accomplished...we’ll just have to wait and see.”

Jailers and sheriffs with supervisory and release experience, trained booking officers and current or former jailers who were honorably discharged within the last two years who want to answer the governor’s call can contact TCOLE.

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