Biendl joined the Corrections Department in 2002. Teamsters 117 spokeswoman Tracey Thompson said Sunday that the officer had complained to her union shop steward and prison supervisors about being the sole guard working in the chapel. She worried about being there alone without anyone checking on her, Thompson said.Here in Texas the state's fiscal crisis is coming to a head as the state legislature prepares the budget. We've seen talk of the state prison system cutting staff while keeping the same number of prisons. Let's hope those chopping money from the budget are mindful of the officer safety implications of their cuts. I'm not saying that money doesn't need to be cut, I understand the state's fiscal crisis. However, those cuts should be made with care to ensure that they don't cut officer safety too.
Recent budget cuts have forced staffing reductions and union members have been worried about the impact of those reductions on safety, Thompson said.
"We have been pushing so hard on safety issues," Thompson said. "It makes me crazy that it took someone getting murdered inside a prison while doing their job for there to be attention on this work and how difficult and dangerous it can be."
Lewis insisted that Biendl's death was not a result of budget cuts in recent years. "The staffing model has been the same for years," he said, adding that the reality is that officers often work by themselves.
For some good coverage of the state's budget process and how it might affect prisons, keep an eye on Scott Henson's blog Grits For Breakfast.