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And former correctional officers said they felt unsafe, forced to cut corners and work too much overtime in a unit that holds more than 2,500 men.
The problems at the maximum-security prison tucked away on the outskirts of this small town in the northeastern corner of Texas near Texarkana are largely blamed on a shortage of guards.
"There's other job opportunities opening up in rural Texas." Data from the Texas State Auditor's Office show a marked increase over the previous year, when 22.8 percent of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice's roughly 26,000 officers left for other jobs.
At the same time, department vacancy rates have crept up again to over 12 percent, with 3,207 jobs unfilled.
"Some are located in communities that don't even have housing available for the corrections officers." County-by-county numbers show that staffing challenges can be highly localized and specific, as in the Texas Panhandle.
Hartley and Dallam counties are not in an area particularly known for oil and gas, but a cheese factory in Dalhart has typically pulled away would-be prison workers, Henson said.