A View from the Other Side. . .

the other TDCJ Employees


For four and a half years I was a Correctional Officer for the Texas Department of TDCJ. Then I got hurt on the job and the injury would not allow to me to perform the duties of that position. I order to retain employment with TDCJ, I had to change to an administrative or clerical type job. This also meant a demotion and a large reduction in pay. Furthermore, I was transferred from Central Texas to the East Texas Piney Woods.

I was a strong advocate of the Correctional Officer, and I joined with many others in an effort to secure a higher salary for those of us who worked behind the high wire fences with those incarcerated within our prisons. I also expressed my beliefs that we need better working conditions as well as more money. I have been assaulted in various ways by five or more different inmates. I was lucky. . . I survived each attack.

Now, I am on the other side of the spectum, but still inside the fenced walls that keep criminals locked away from society. Call me a desk jockey, pencil pusher, or whatever. I am working harder in my current position than I ever did as a Correctional Officer. So this article is for those people who have yet to be recognized as the heart of the prison inside the units.

Who make up the majority of the prison staff other than Correctional Officers, those who don't wear a uniform of gray to work every day? The staff members of the various departments the public hears little about are composed of workers and supervisors: mail room, count room, and human resources. They are the unknown members of the prison staff that keep the prison running each day. These who have not been included in the "big bucks" of the officers wearing gray.

The majority of these are the clerks. . . mail room, court room, and human resources. Their salaries in most cases are slightly over half that of the officers. When I was moved from a correctional position to a clerk position, my salary was cut $800 per month. In addition, I lost my hazardous duty pay, yet I still work inside the prison unit.

A Clerk III earns $1461 per month. A Clerk IV earns $1621 per month. These are the backbone of the administrative staff. . . those who have been ignored by the legislaturers in the salary discussions. If you think these people have an easy job, you better think again!

The Count Room is probably the center of more activity than many of the other sections of the prison. It is their responsibility to keep track of every inmate. They are in charge of tracking and accountability for each inmate assigned to the unit. They send out little pieces of paper (similar to our doctor's appointment) that tells the correctional officers that a particular inmate has a doctor's appointment, must attend educational classes, is scheduled to go to the law library, can go here or there at a particular time. They must make changes to housing. When an inmate gets in trouble or causes a disruption, he is moved to Ad-Seg. When his life may be in danger, they make the move on paper that authorizes the inmate to be housed in a different location for his safety. When a inmate is to be moved from one unit to another, they do all the paperwork. Lose track of one inmate, and another escape may be in the process. It is to the Count Room that the correctional officer reports the number of offenders he is supervising.

The Mail Room. . . what would happen if the inmates received no mail? One of the known causes from riots in problems with an inmates mail. Each piece of mail must be opened and scanned for contraband sent to an inmate from the outside world. Contraband can be a lot of things, from seeming harmless things like a stamp or sticker, but either could be more than what it seems. Drugs have been known to come in the form of stamps and stickers. They are used outside of the fenced walls of prison to attract young children, and they are easily smuggled into the prison itself. Each package must be logged in or out and again inspected for illegal items. The mail must be processed and sorted for distribution to the inmates. This is for incoming mail. The same process is done for all out going mail as well. Billions of pieces of mail are handled yearly by the mail room staff who earn slightly more than an officer.

This brings us to Human Resources. . . Personnel as it used to be named. Think their job is easy? Walk in their shoes for a week and you'd probably be ready to throw in the towel. This is now my new job, and little did I when a correctional officer, realize just how vital they are to the prison system. While correctional officers generally deal with up to 80 inmates at a time, the human resources clerk deals with every employee working at their unit on a regular basis. If they didn't calculate and enter time, no one would get paid. If they didn't process the leave applications, no one would ever get a day off, a holiday, or a vacation. If they didn't process the millions of forms filled out be the employees of their unit, no one would have insurance, recieve a career ladder salary adjustment, be selected for the various position that come open in different departments, be scheduled for needed training classes, etc. The list is never ending. Let one of us mess up someone's time so that they don't get their overtime checks, and you find out real quick just how many people run to their human resources personnel to get it fixed. Without us, we would never be able to hire replacements for those who quit because they went elsewhere for high wages and better working conditions.

The majority of the clerks in TDCJ make approximately $17532 annually. With the new pay raise approved by the Texas Legislature, their salary will increase to $18732 on September 1, 2001. Regardless of whether they work one year or twenty years, their salary remains the same. Let's compare that to the correctional office. The following is based on current salary.

YRS OF SERVICE

CLERICAL

OFFICER

Begin

$1461

$1577

6 mos.

$1461

$1877

12 mo.

$1461

$1979

18 mo.

$1461

$2098

24 mo.

$1461

$2227

36 mo.

$1461

$2365

At this point the current career ladder stops. There are no more pay raises. Now consider the new September 1st pay scale for an employee with eight or more years of service.

97+ mos.

$1561

$2689

So what is the only incentive to working as one of the clerks for TDCJ? Job security! That's all. The benefits are that good any more because every time we get a pay raise our insurance goes up.

Let's face it, the lawyers, doctors and pharmacutical companies are ruining our health care. Prescription drugs are highly over priced by a minimum of two times. Doctor's fee are too high for regular visits. And the lawyers are fighting to keep it this way. The average citizen can't afford to go to the doctor without insurance and the only way to get half-way descent insurance is to work for big business, including TDCJ.

The only advantage to working in a prison is certainly job security. The rate of citizens who will be in prison by the year 2005 has been predicted to reach 1 out of every 5 adults in the state. That is a staggering number. That basically means that, counting yourself and foud neighbors, one of you will be in prison within the next four years. If I work inside the prison fences today, I believe I have better chance of staying out.

It is time, that those people to work in positions other than as a correctional officer, receive the recognition they deserve. It is time, they too, are recognized by the hiarchy of TDCJ and our State Legistators.

WE NEED A PAY RAISE TOO!

Introduction Statistics: 2001 Statistics: 2000
Statistics: 1999 Statistics: 1998 Statistics: 1934 to 1997
Inside The Wire Letter to the Public To The Texas Legislature
Salary: Texas vs. Nation Poetry From Behind The Wall Poems From The Picket
To TDCJ Officers Officer Experience Letter to Governor Bush
The Monument Letter to Governor Perry Letter to the Public #2

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Last update
09/22/ 2001

 

 

2000 - 2001

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