Prison Guard Shortage in Dalhart

There is currently a prison dilemma in Dalhart, TX.  The prison there is severely understaffed when it comes to security guards.  One state lawmaker says that this is putting your safety at risk.

The Dalhart unit has the most vacancies in the state concerning security guards.  A Texas senator says that a shortage could lead to a breakout or riot.  So NewsChannel 10 talked to the warden at the prison today to get some answers.

"Currently we're 63% staffed," says Eddie Wheeler the Senior Warden in Dalhart.  There are currently 128 guards employed and seventy-seven vacancies.  "We've been short here the whole time I've been here," Wheeler adds.

Guards are circulated through three shifts.  At any given time there could be up to forty guards on duty watching over nearly 1,300 prisoners.  To make matters worse, guards are putting in twelve hour shifts to get the job done.

"We're doing mandatory overtime; naturally the overtime takes its toll on [the guards]," says Wheeler.  Some say this could cause fatigue, but the warden assures the place is secure.

"That's one of our first priorities, public safety," says Wheeler.  For one thing, the prison's cut down on recreation for inmates.  These are changes that help to run a tight ship, in a tough place in a tough job.

Experts say locations and pay are part of the shortage problem.  A guard in Dalhart makes just over $1,800 per  month starting out and after about a year it jumps to $2,200 per month.