Friday, April 19, 2013

Pending Execution Revives Prison Staffing Debate

Photo by Tamir Kalifa

In December 1999, Daniel Nagle, a correctional officer, stood on the Texas Capitol steps, leading a rally to ask lawmakers for a pay raise for his fellow prison employees. His union had been at odds with the prison administration for months over whether a staffing shortage was compromising safety.

“Someone will have to be killed,” he said at the rally, “before the Texas Department of Criminal Justice does anything about the shortage of staff in Texas prisons.”

Two weeks later, Nagle was fatally stabbed by an inmate while working at the McConnell Unit in Beeville. “There was nobody there to call for help,” said his sister Della Nagle. “It was just him and the inmates.”

Officials of the prison workers' union, a chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, including Nagle’s former colleagues, said that understaffing and low pay continue to put officers in danger today. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice, which runs Texas prisons, counters that all of its critical security positions are filled. And the inmate convicted of Nagle’s murder says the staffing issues created a situation that was ripe for corruption and led him to being framed.

Read the rest in The New York Times, or a slightly longer version in The Texas Tribune.

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