Connolly Unit near Kenedy is shipping out hundreds of inmates today
Some 376 felons are being bussed out of the Connolly Prison Unit near Kenedy, southeast of San Antonio today, because the prison has lost so many guards to higher paying jobs in the Eagle Ford Shale fields, it no longer has enough staff on duty to properly supervise them, 1200 WOAI news reports.
Jason Clark, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Corrections, Institutional Division says the vacancy rate for guards is pushing 40%, and he says the prison will not be operated if officials feel there are too many inmates inside for the staff to successfully monitor.
"This is primarily due to the oil and gas industry," Clark said. "And so at this point, we have about a 40% vacancy in that unit for correctional officers."
It is the first time in four years that a Texas prison has been partially taken offline.
Clark says the Connolly Unit, which is best known for being the home of the 'Texas Seven' prison escape in 1999, has also been plagued by water problems, which prompted the unit to boil all water, reduce the number of showers inmates could take, and ship in water and cold meals. The general population areas of Texas prisons are not air conditioned.
But Clark says it was the staffing issue, not the lack of water, which prompted the rare step of emptying about a sixth of Connolly's 2600 inmates.
He says a sign on bonus has been announced to try to attract new guards, and the prison system is also stressing the public service nature of the job.
"It is an important job," he said. "It is challenging, but it is important."
No word on how long it will take to get the staffing up to the point where the prisoners can be returned.