GEORGETOWN, Texas (KXAN) — Being a control room operator at a county jail may not be glamorous, but it’s an important job.
“We maintain the safety and security of the whole facility,” says control room operator Matthew Luna. “I think without us, I don’t think the jail would be possible, you know.”
Luna monitors almost every room in the Williamson County Jail, unlocking doors, making sure officers get through, and inmates don’t, when they’re not supposed to. Sheriff Robert Chody wants to give control room operators, or “CRO’s” as they’re called, more responsibilities and a pay raise.
“We’re asking the county to look at this and make them correctional officers because they’ve already been through correctional officer training,” explains Chody.
Reclassifying CRO’s as correctional officers will allow them to leave the control room and help pick up the slack in other parts of the jail. “We’re not able to fully staff all the time due to not having enough people who want to work the overtime, and this will give us another pool of people, 30 more people to choose from,” says Chody.
“It increases the budget, but this is something that should’ve been done a long time ago,” says Chody. “It was a shortcut that some other elected officials made a long time ago that hurt the employees as a whole, hurt the county as a whole, and I’m just righting the wrong, or suggesting we right the wrong.”
Chody says he’s also asking commissioners for another 15 correctional officers, but he’s not sure that request will get approved in the new budget. The jail loses about five correctional officers every month.
Williamson County commissioners will meet Tuesday morning to discuss, and possibly vote on the salary increases. Last summer, the county approved a 4 percent raise for corrections officers and a 5 percent raise for jail deputies and baliffs.
The Travis County Jail staffs two similar positions as Williamson County. There are corrections officers who directly supervise inmates, search cells, perform security checks, monitor recreation and escort visitors.They earn about $44,000 a year.
There are also security coordinators who keep the facility under control. They are responsible for operating radios and security alarms, dispatching corrections officers within the jail, and controlling access into each unit. Their salary ranges from $32,000 to $39,000 a year. A spokesperson for the Travis County Sheriff’s Office says there are currently 20 vacant positions for corrections officers. They have 900 staff working at the jail, which houses about 2,500 inmates a day.