Pay raises to address staff shortages at Texas youth prisons

A guard tower on the outside of a prison. (Pixabay)

AUSTIN, Texas – Texas’ juvenile prison system is giving employees pay raises to address high staff turnover and staffing shortages that earlier this week prompted officials to stop accepting new children into its facilities.

Direct-care staff, including correctional officers and case managers, will be getting 15% pay raises. The salary increases had been temporary following an emergency measure in April but will now be permanent, the Texas Juvenile Justice Department announced Friday.

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The permanent pay raises are “the first step in stabilizing the agency,” said Interim Executive Director Shandra Carter.

In a letter sent last month to Texas juvenile probation chiefs but only made public earlier this week, Carter had said her agency would have to temporarily halt the intake of youth to its five state facilities as the juvenile justice department was “hemorrhaging” staff.

Following media reports in 2007 that detailed physical and sexual abuse in state facilities and which raised concerns with state judges and lawmakers, the Texas Juvenile Justice Department has worked to improve conditions at its facilities.

In a May report to the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission, the agency’s ombudsman said a leadership overhaul due to “persistent problems” at the juvenile prison system, including on ongoing federal probe, has failed to address the primary cause of the agency’s current turmoil: chronic staff shortages.