“There are dozens of reasons to leave and very few to stay,” said Brian Dawe, national director of One Voice United, a nonprofit supporting corrections officers. “Understaffing, poor pay, poor benefits, horrendous working conditions. … Officers and their families in many jurisdictions have had enough.”

On a “good day,” he told lawmakers, he had maybe six or seven officers to supervise roughly 1,200 people. He said he had recently been assigned to look after 400 prisoners by himself. There weren’t enough nurses to provide medical care.

“All the officers … absolutely despise working there,” said the officer, who didn’t give his name for fear of retaliation.

In Texas, Lance Lowry quit after 20 years as a corrections officer to become a long-haul trucker because he couldn’t bear the job any longer. Watching friends and coworkers die from COVID-19, along with dwindling support from his superiors, wore on him.

Fewer guards lead to more lockdowns, rising tensions and scant access to healthcare.

Unions also claim vaccine mandates will drive out unvaccinated employees and exacerbate understaffing, though it’s unclear how big of an impact those rules will have.

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