Letter To The Public
Dear Friends and Neighbors:

The average citizen has no idea about what goes on inside a prison. They only know what they see on television, which shows little of the real world inside. Seldom does a person feel concern for their safety from the convicted. Only on occasion, when an escape is reported, does the public stop to think about what might have if their path crossed that of the fleeing criminal. Then, once the person is apprehended, the thought is gone.

I know a little about fear. I work in one of our state prisons six days a week. When I walk through the gate into a world behind an 8 ft. fence topped with razor wire, I don't know if I will walk out at the end of my shift, or be carried out on a stretcher.

As a Correction Officer, I must realize that I wasn't forced into this profession. The job didn't select me. I chose it. At this point in my life I often stop to question my sanity for being in this position. Why do I put my life on the line every day? It certainly isn't for the money, nor the benefits, nor the glory of the job.

It is a position which not everyone can fill. Could you? Do you believe that under highly stressful, under staffed, unsafe conditions, you could perform your best? Could you walk amid murders, robbers, rapest and child molestors 9 hours a day, listen to them call you every everything except a human being, and keep your cool? Could you walk amid these people, knowing that you are their target. Knowing that at any given moment you could be subjected to whatever the inmate population decided was your destiny?

These are just a few of the anxieties that we, as Correction Officers, face daily. Is there any wonder that our profession has one of the highest rates of divorce, heart attacks, depression and suicides? According to a study by the US Department of Justice, it rates as the No. 4 most violent job in the United States.

Consider that, at present, there are more than 151,000 convicted men and women locked away behind the fences of the state prisons.

Employed to supervise these offenders are approximately 35,000 TDCJ employees. On paper, that doesn't seem so bad - a ratio of 1 officer for each 5 offenders. In reality, that just isn't the case. I work at one of the smaller units. At maximum capacity we will house 174 offenders. To be fully staffed we need to turn out 13-14 officers per shift. That is a 13:1 ratio of offenders per officer. In reality the ratio is 16:1 on a good day, however, some days it is a 20:1 ratio, and many days it is 100:1.

Take into consideration limited or no air conditioning, sweltering Texas heat that pushes upwards to 100 nearly every day. Add a mixture of several different races and cultures. To that add gangs. Stir all of these up and place in a building that is 2-3 tiers high with 100+ offenders on each run. As if that isn't enough, add a noise level that is loud enough to burst an ear drum. What do you have now? On a good day you will find these conditions in almost every TDCJ penal facility across the state. On a bad day, you may have an inmate fight, an attempted suicide by hanging, an inmate killed or a riot. On a really bad day, you will find officers being assaulted, beaten, or even murdered.

Consider the anger that is inside these offenders. Take away all the Correction Officers and see what would happen. It seems that the general opinion is that Correction Officers employed by the State of Texas have an easy job. People seem to believe that we don't deserve a pay raise or better working conditions. If that is how you feel, come walk nine hours in my shoes.

One thing is for certain, your life will never be the same as it was before. Only then, your education regarding the job performance of a Correction Officer be almost complete. It will not be 100% complete until you have been spit on, throwed on, or assault by one the offenders you told "good morning".

Now, friends and neighbors, the next time you lay down and place your head on your pillow at night, say a prayer for the men and women in Corrections who supervise the convicted felons across Texas. Without them, your worse nightmare might come true.

Respectfully yours,

A Correction Officer

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Statistics: 1998 Statistics: 1934 to 1997 The Monument at Sesquicentennial Plaza
Inside The Wire Letter to the Public To The Texas Legislature
Salary: Texas vs. Nation Poetry From
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