According to an employee, some inmates have smart phones at under-staffed prison

BIG SPRING -- Federal Correctional Institution Big Spring has about 46 vacant jobs among it's prison staff. Administration and workers unions are trying to fill those voids before something goes seriously wrong.

On Wednesday the prison hosted a job fair. Several people signed up, but they'll only satisfy a fraction of the need.

“The problem is the administration here has not been collaborative with the efforts to get the truth out to the community,” Clifton Buchanan of the American Federation of Government Empolyees said. “[Safety] doesn’t seem to be their number one priority as it ours.”

The AFGE is the national workers union for prison employees. It claims the staff at FCI Big Spring worked over 5000 hours of overtime during the government shutdown.

Another way FCI Big Spring is dealing with the shortage is by having employees trained for roles as educators and case managers sub in and serve as prison guards.

“It makes it less safe when you move me into that position,” prison teacher and union official Paula Chavez said. “While we are all correctional workers first, that doesn’t equate to being equally effective when we swap roles.”

Chavez said the short-handed and exhausted staff is having a difficult time doing their jobs, and as a result, the prison has a major problem with contraband items getting to inmates, including cell phones.

“They can do anything inside the fence that you can do outside with those smart phones,” Chavez said. “Bank transactions, we can’t monitor anymore. We are failing at keeping the public separate from that now, because they’re still able to continue their crimes behind our fence via those cell phones. Staffing shortages kill us when it comes to that sort of thing.”

We reached out to the prison for an interview or a statement about the staff shortage and problems it's causing, but they said they were unable to do so.