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$2,300 in U.S. Savings Bonds earned
TDCJ training supervisor finds recruiting rewarding experience

Fields holding his savings bond gift certificate
Region I Training Major James E. Fields has earned 23 Executive Director’s Recruiting Program awards and the U.S. Savings Bonds that come with them.
Photo by David Nunnelee
Recruiting people on the side to work as correctional officers for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice is rewarding to Region I Training Department Major James E. Fields in more ways than one.

First there is the pleasure he gets in introducing men and women to an agency that he said has given him 24 “rewarding” years of employment. Then there’s the satisfaction in knowing that he’s doing his part to help ease the agency’s current officer shortage. Finally, there is the $100 U.S. Savings Bond he deposits for each person he brings to the agency through the Executive Director’s Recruiting Award Program.

With 23 certificates and savings bonds awarded to him over the past year, Fields leads the field of individuals who have recruited correctional officers through the program. More than 3,500 officers have been hired in all since the program’s inception in 1999.

“A lot of it is word of mouth,” Fields said about how he finds prospective recruits. “I get phone calls from parents, some are relatives, and some are former employees who know that I don’t mind helping people get hired on.”

Fields, who works out of the College of Criminal Justice at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, also sometimes approaches people to join his profession.

“Sometimes I’ll see college students or I’ll see people on the street that I know are unemployed,” he said. “I would like to bring in as many people as I possibly can.”

Fields thinks of working for TDCJ as “an honorable living with great benefits” and sees his individual recruiting efforts as his duty.

“I think administrators should lead the way in the recruiting process,” Fields said. “That’s why I do it. If this agency has been good to them, it seems to me that they would want to bring somebody in so they too can receive some of the same benefits of working here.”

As for his financial rewards, Fields said he’s waiting for his savings bonds to mature before cashing them in.

“I haven’t done anything with them yet,” he said. “I’m saving them for a rainy day.”

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Reentry Program Model developed for Texas adult
correctional system

As offenders move from one TDCJ division to another, programs proven to better their chances of reentering society successfully should move with them.

That was the consensus of a task force as its members set out last year to develop a reentry program model for Texas’ adult correctional system.

illustration with 3 inmates with the labels of probation, prison and parole“Current practices for transferring offenders from one division to the next can best be described as disjointed,” the 14-member task force said in a pamphlet published last November. “There is little sharing of offender information from one supervision strategy (probation, prison and parole) to the other, resulting, in many cases, in a duplication of services. It also raises the question of whether the risks/needs of the offender have been appropriately addressed.”

Recommendations for creating a seamless and efficient transitioning system were formalized about a year after Rehabilitation and Reentry Division Director Madeline Ortiz was appointed to lead the task force made up of representatives of the agency divisions that provide supervision services to offenders. Its resulting reentry program model was developed around agency programs that have a high correlation to recidivism rates, namely education, employment and substance abuse programming.

“The programs that we would like to offer would be evidence-based programs, programs that actually work,” Ortiz said.

Ortiz said the model also promotes partnering with communities to assist offenders in finding jobs and housing upon their release from prison.

“All of it is about collaboration,” she said. “It’s everybody working together to give the offender a better shot at a successful reentry.”

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