Retention rates in the Brown County jail are low for jailers.
Brown County Sheriff Bobby Grubbs said the starting salaries for his jailers is about $24,000 a year. "That's not competitive with nearly anything around here." He said he wants to give them pay raises, but does not have the power to do so.
"I've been fighting for increases in this for the last three years," said Grubbs. "I get frustrated about it."
Grubbs said he plans on asking the county commissioners yet again for pay raises for the jailers.
The Brown County jail administrator, Becky Caffey, said the turnover rate for the jailers in 2013 was more than 50%. Many of them leave for jobs with better pay and the jail cannot compete with other offers.
"It's hard for them to support a single-household as well as a family household on that pay," said Caffey. A mother herself, Caffey can relate to having financial burdens.
"Food keeps going up, gas doesn't seem to be getting cheaper, rent is not going down...My officers struggle monthly to make their bills and even have any money leftover."
Many jailers said it's not just the low pay that has them questioning if the job is worth it.
"It becomes very stressful at times," said jailer Marilyn Tharp. "Sometimes the two days off are not enough to prepare for the next two-day shifts."
"It's not a very conducive environment for raising a family," said jailer Mark Shaw. "The elements we're exposed to, we take home to our families."
Caffey said it's often frustrating to deal with inmates because of their emotions, behaviors and abusive habits. Jailers risk getting assaulted, yelled at, cursed at, and having feces and urine thrown on them.
"It's an important job," said Caffey. "The job that these guys do, as far as I'm concerned, is as important as someone who's out on patrol arresting these people. They're keeping the citizens of Brown County as well as the state of Texas safe, and they're keeping inmates safe."
Tharp said it helps to have coworkers to lean on.
Some of the requirements to being a jailer includes: minimum age of 18, a high school diploma or GED, psychological and medical exams, drug screening, and background investigation.
For more information, you can contact the Law Enforcement Center at (325) 646-2525. The address is 1050 W. Commerce St.