Officers Have to Resort to Urinating in Cups: Sgt. McCain

Shortage of detention officers forces dangerous conditions, long hours

By Lindsay Wilcox and Frank Heinz
|  Wednesday, Aug 12, 2009  |  Updated 6:13 AM CDT
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People Are Not Showing Up For Work

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Dallas County Jail employees say working conditions force jailers to urinate in cups or, even worse, on themselves.

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Jail Officers Suffering Under Deplorable Conditions

Dallas County Jail employees spoke out at a Dallas County Commissioners Courty hearing on Tuesday about horrendous working conditions where some employees have been forced to urinate in cups or on themselves due to a lack of relief from other employees.

The Worst Morale and Worst Work Conditions

During Dallas County Commissioners Court Tuesday morning, Sgt. Ruthie McCain of the Dallas Sheriff's Department spoke about the low morale and work conditions at the jail.
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Detention workers at the Dallas County Jail say they feel more like prisoners than employees and are being forced to work under unbelievably inhuman conditions.

Making an appeal for the employees of the Dallas County Sheriff's Department, Sgt. Ruthie McCain spoke to the Commissioners Court about the low morale and horrible working conditions at the jail.

Jailers say staffing levels are so low that they are denied restroom breaks and are left with the humiliating options of urinating in cups or soiling themselves.

"The bathroom facilities available to the officers -- you must spend 8.5 hours in a pod with 64 inmates -- there is not adequate staffing to allow relief, breaks or lunch and still maintain the security on the floors," McCain said. "Our officers have to resort to urinating in cups, and in extreme cases, suffer (the) horrendous humiliation of urinating on themselves because of the lack of available officers."

The state requires there be one detention officer for every 48 inmates. On paper, the county meets that requirement, but jailers said the number of jailers present for work routinely falls short.

"Failure to fund the recommended staffing has only compounded the problems in this facility. I present that none of you would care to see your brothers or sisters, husbands and wives subject to the conditions our officers have to endure," McCain told commissioners.

Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price, who oversees the jail, said the shortage is because of employees who simply do not show up for work. Those who are present are then forced to pick up the slack, he said.

"You don't have any hot food. You're stuck on the floor. Then they tell you have to go work an extra four hours, and then they tell you you can't go to the break room to get anything to eat," said Chequita Wesley, a detention officer, in an interview.

Instead of working an eight-hour day, many detention officers work 12 hours or more. Instead of getting paid overtime, the employees said they receive compensatory time that they're supposed to be able use later as days off.

"They're paying you time instead of money, but because we are low in numbers, you can't take off," Wesley said.

During Tuesday's Commissioners Court meeting, jailers packed the room, asking officials to hire more employees and give them some relief.

But with 10-percent budget cuts mandated for all county departments, it's unclear how the county would pay for the extra workers.

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