December 20, 2006
Where will you get the guards for those jails?

Grits follows up his previous bloggage on the current push to build more jails, which some of us razz while others cheer, with a basic question: Who will staff these new prisons and jails?

The state is chronically 3,000 guards short now but is considering building three new prison units. In Houston, Harris County Commissioners want to increase the state's largest county jail by 50% capacity, but they can't fully staff the facilities they've got now. Meanwhile, other counties are expanding local jails, and new immigration detention centers are going up.

Well, hey, if we're going to have illegal immigrants building our border fences, why not let the inmates be the guards? At least in this state, you'll never have to worry about a labor shortage!

I kid, I kid. Though in writing that little joke, it occurs to me that one decent source for the generally young, male workers you'd need for the prison industry would be...Mexican immigrants.

(I'll pause for a minute here till all the heads are finished exploding.)

Hey, some folks want to use immigrants to help the military meet its recruiting targets, with citizenship as a reward for a four-year hitch. I say if you're qualified to serve in Iraq, you're qualified to serve in Huntsville. I don't see how one proposal is any crazier than the other.

Speaking of the military, it's a factor in the hiring woes that prisons and police forces face, too.

Over the past year, it's become increasingly clear that many municipalities are facing a crisis in police recruitment. There are plenty of factors involved -- from low unemployment to changes in the workforce -- but one of the reasons is more and more competition from the armed services, which themselves are pressed for manpower.

That's because cops and soldiers are similar folks. Both groups are disproportionately young, male, willing to accept dangerous careers and comfortable using firearms. As a result, if the military ups benefits to try to recruit more troops, police forces may have no choice but to follow suit.

It goes without saying that prison guards fall into this same demographic, right? Well, at least this provides an alternate means to easing the staffing problems that prisons and police forces face: Bring the troops home, and scale down the enlistment push. Works for me!

On a tangential note, Grits recently wrote about the problem of false burglar alarms and their effect on police resources. Read it (and the comments) and ask yourself: Is the proper response by the city of Plano to hire more police officers, or to change the way they respond to burglar alarms?

Finally, while it was linked in the Grits paragraph that I excerpted above, be sure to read this Statesman editorial (also noted by Eye on Williamson) about one of those new immigration detention centers.

UPDATE: Stace demonstrates once again how hard it is to stay ahead of the satire curve.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on December 20, 2006 to Crime and Punishment | TrackBack

If the Commissioners constantly reject the Sheriff's annual guard staffing needs then they have no justification to ask me for more jail space that will obviously remain empty - especially as the Commissioners are drowning in increased tax revenues.

Posted by: Charles Hixon on December 20, 2006 1:04 PM