TPEA Statement on TDCJ Response to High Turnover

February 7, 2018

Posted on 2/07/2018

Turnover rates among first-year corrections officer recruits have reached a critical level, and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) is taking steps to address it. According to the Texas State Auditor's Office (SAO) 2017 turnover report, TDCJ experienced an overall turnover rate of 28 percent; however, for first-year corrections officers, that rate jumped to 42 percent. (Statewide, employees with fewer than two years of service had a turnover rate of 39.7 percent.) Current funding for TDCJ includes 26,000 corrections officers, and the agency currently has about 3,600 job openings. This turnover data suggests that both TDCJ and other state agencies are not competitive in the employment marketplace.

Bryan Collier, executive director of the TDCJ, released a statement on Feb. 1 sharing the agency's plans for addressing the challenges. TDCJ will raise starting pay for corrections officers to the same rate currently earned after one year on the job, increasing from $32,180 to $36,238, a 12.6 percent increase. New hires also will remain eligible for hiring bonuses offered for jobs in certain hard-to-fill units.

In a video posted with the statement, Collier spoke directly to the job performed by corrections officers. "It is critically important to this agency and the state of Texas," he said. "Please know we are committed to help ensure that we reduce correctional officer vacancies within the agency."

"The TPEA supports TDCJ's response to this hiring and turnover crisis," said Gary Anderson, executive director of TPEA. "We sense that there is a problem with low salaries across all state agencies particularly in retaining newer and younger employees. We applaud TDCJ for the steps it is taking to meet this critical staffing challenge head on."

High turnover rates are not unique to TDCJ. According to the SAO, the average turnover rate for state employees for fiscal year 2017 was 18 percent, up one point from the previous year. These high turnover rates are, in part, exacerbated by a lack of compensation increases. According to the SAO report, the number one reason employees separate from state employment is for better pay. Although TDCJ correctional officers have received enhancements to their career ladder compensation in the last several years, general state employees have not received an across-the-board raise in six years.

Additionally, a significant portion of the state's workforce will be fully vested and eligible to retire in fiscal year 2019. According to the Employees Retirement System (ERS), approximately 16,000 active members of our workforce are eligible to retire in fiscal year 2018. If many of these employees were to retire at once, it would be extremely difficult for the state to replace this large number of workers.

"We believe these statistics suggest that the legislature needs to address the challenges state agencies face in recruiting and retaining an experienced, well-trained workforce," said Anderson. "TDCJ's problem is a critical example of an issue that impacts agencies across the state. Turnover rates among younger and less-tenured employees are about twice as high as the state average and point to the likelihood that hiring employees is going to get worse."

At a Senate Finance Committee hearing held Jan. 30, Glenn Hegar, Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, discussed the growing Texas economy and the pressure it puts on the employment job market. He was encouraged by State Senator John Whitmire to look specifically at how a tightening job market impacts hiring and retention within state agencies. (To see the exchange between Hegar and Whitmire on this topic, go to the 16:30 mark on the Senate Finance Committee video.)

For more details on state employee turnover, readers can visit the SAO's 2017 report.


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