- Officers at the Dallas County Jail say they worked 16-hour shifts for days in a row due to understaffing.
- An official told NBC DFW that the prison sometimes imposed overtime to comply with state manning rules.
- Officers said the jail was struggling to find replacements after some staff members resigned.
Officers at Dallas County Jail say short-term staffing has sometimes forced them to work 16-hour shifts for several days in a row, according to reports from NBC DFW and The Dallas Observer.
At a protest on Tuesday, officers said some employees had quit their jobs and that the prison was struggling to find replacements, according to reports.
Some officers said they were given a mandate to work two standard eight-hour shifts for up to five days in a row due to these staff shortages, according to The Observer.
Officers said they sometimes only found out they had to stay in another shift less than half an hour before the first one was finished, The Observer reported.
According to state regulations, the jail needs a guard for all 48 inmates, Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price told NBC DFW.
“We have to be consistent, and sometimes that means you have to have a mandate if we don’t get enough volunteers,” Price said.
The Dallas County Jail had 5,976 inmates per year. Monday evening count per. NBC DFW.
Price said up to 300 of the prison’s 1,450 prison guards had been on leave recently, more than usual, with some of them in quarantine. Before the pandemic, this would normally be between 170 and 200, he said.
“I do not want to put it all on COVID,” Price told the news station. “Admittedly, it has been amplified due to COVID.”
Sheriff Marian Brown told the news station: “Because we have vacancies at the moment, we need to work overtime to stay consistent.
“We keep working to get to a point where overtime is not a necessity,” she said.
In Tuesday’s protest, some officers said the prison had struggled to maintain staffing levels for years but had stalled during the pandemic, NBC DFW reported.
Emmanuel Lewis, an officer in the jail, told The Observer that prison staff had quit and retired, but that “no new hires” were on their way in.
The United States suffers from a huge shortage of labor as people leave low-paid jobs for roles with better wages, benefits and hours. Fear of catching the Delta variant also puts some people off taking personal jobs.
Prison Officer Markedra Benson said she caught the virus from working in the jail.
“I took it home,” she told NBC DFW. “The inmates are not forced to wear masks, but we are.”
Benson said “no one wants to work under these conditions.”
“We all like to go home and be with our families,” she said.
Texan detectives and prison guards earn less than the national average, 2020 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows. Detectives and prison guards earn an average of $ 21.26 per hour or $ 44,230 per year compared to the national average of $ 25.16 per hour or $ 52,340 per year.