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TDCJ Telephone Help Desk is the right number to call

TDCJ Volunteers – Giving to Make a Difference


illustration of a man on phone and a woman talking on the phone with a telephone cord connecting the two images
TDCJ Telephone Help Desk is
the right number to call
By: Sylvia Saumell-Baston (Switchboard Operator)

Considering the number of people employed by TDCJ and the fact that almost each one of these employees has a telephone, it may come as a surprise to learn that only a handful of people make up the Telephone Help Desk. With just five employees, the Help Desk definitely does its share for TDCJ.

The majority of calls are from employees located in units and administrative departments around the state. Many times, the problem is a tied-up line, which makes it difficult for the employee to dial out. With such problems, the first instinct of the employee may be to contact the local phone company. But under no circumstances should a TDCJ employee call the local telephone company directly.

Because TDCJ owns all of its telephone systems, the Telephone Help Desk is responsible for verifying and clearing problems within the system first. So the first call an employee makes should be to the Help Desk. A series of routine checks and troubleshooting techniques can be performed by the department’s technicians who will call into the telephone system and conduct numerous software tasks in an effort to clear the problem. If they are unable to clear the problem, a TDCJ field technician is dispatched to the site. If the trouble is not in the telephone equipment or inside wiring it is normally a local telephone company problem. At this point the technician refers the problem back to the Help Desk whose responsibility is to call the report into the local telephone company.

Another process that the Help Desk is involved with is the movement of phones. Now more than ever, with relocating taking place within the agency, employees are either receiving new extensions or moving to new areas. The Telephone Help Desk is first notified by the relocating department with a Telephone Request Form, which can be obtained from the TDCJ web site. Any difficulty in obtaining this information or any customer needing assistance should call the Help Desk and they will gladly walk you through the procedures. Once the programming is completed and the telephone has been installed or relocated by the field technician, it is important that the appropriate departments share all the information. Communication between employees and the Help Desk must be clear and accurate in order for the transition to run smoothly.

Relatives of offenders also regularly contact the Help Desk with questions ranging from what company TDCJ uses as its long distance carrier to why their loved one is unable to call home. The individual handling the situation at the Help Desk then researches various things such as call lists and call logs at units and checks to see if there are blocks on any phone lines.

Telephone Help Desk supervisor Tina Allen cites customer service as one of the department’s main goals and is pleased with the way situations are handled.

“It’s always great when you feel appreciated,” she said.

Employees with telephone problems or questions should contact a member of the Help Desk at (936) 437-1901 or personally contact its employees at 815 11th Street, Rm. G-8, in downtown Huntsville.

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TDCJ Volunteers – Giving to Make a Difference
By Don B. Jones, Vice Chairman, Texas Board of Criminal Justice
portrait of Don Jones
Don Jones
TBCJ Vice Chairman

Each day, whether it is on a unit, in an office, or on the street, volunteers are stepping forward to help make a difference in our state’s criminal justice system. Donating thousands of hours annually, these individuals give of themselves to provide services and assist offenders, offender families, employees, and victims of crime.

There are two types of volunteers working within our agency - Approved Volunteers and Special Volunteers. Approved Volunteers (consisting of 14,000 individuals in fiscal year 2004) are approved through an application process and must complete the TDCJ Volunteer Training Program prior to being placed on a unit or in a parole office. They routinely provide a service or participate on a regular basis and include employees, student interns, certified volunteer chaplain assistants, mentors and ex-offenders. Special Volunteers are individuals who provide a service or participate no more than four times a year.

Both approved and special volunteers are utilized in several TDCJ divisions and within the Windham School District. Their talents provide offenders with education and vocational training, as well as help in developing life skills, work habits, and behaviors needed for a successful reentry into the community. Their efforts also play a powerful role in enhancing the offenders’ spiritual growth. Volunteers assist our agency’s employees through office and program support, as well as serve victims through mediation and encounter sessions.

The TDCJ Chaplaincy Department oversees the largest volunteer effort within the agency. With approximately 11,800 (at the end of fiscal year 2004) persons participating, pastoral care, counseling and religious education training are provided to the offenders. Emotional and spiritual support is given as well to the offenders and their families. Through the Chaplaincy Department, volunteers teach the Life Changes Academy which operates in both our state jail and prison facilities. This academy is a holistic program designed to develop and enhance mental, physical, social, family and spiritual skills.

Within the TDCJ Substance Abuse Department, volunteer participation comes from both community groups and local members of Alcoholics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous, Narcotic Anonymous and Winner Circle. Volunteers assist the offenders by informing them of the availability of the Twelve-Step groups in their communities and by helping coordinate arrangements for the offenders, following release, to attend support meeting.

Volunteers contribute within the Windham School District by providing literacy and language tutoring. Their assistance during CHANGES classes provides for presentations on various topics, to include personal finances, legal rights of ex-offenders, and parenting and family relationships. Business and educational volunteers also contribute by conducting discussion sessions on various aspects of the job market and by attending Windham job fairs for offenders.

Student interns, as part of their practicum experience, work as volunteers within the Sex Offender Treatment Program (SOTP). In addition, volunteers hold a limited number of “support groups” meetings at select units to discuss relationships between distorted thinking and sexual offenses, and identify tactics to confront denial and encourage aggression control. Due to the nature of the offenders’ conviction, volunteers utilized by SOTP must go through intensive training and have a background in therapy and counseling.

Within the Victim Services Division of TDCJ, volunteers serve as mediators, assist victims and offenders in preparation for mediation, and facilitate actual mediation sessions under a program known as the Victim Offender Mediation/Dialogue. Through the Bridges for Life/Victim-Offender Encounter Program, volunteers meet with offenders to explore the topics of crime, accountability, responsibility, reconciliation and restitution.

Community volunteers and student interns also assist within the Parole Division by helping to identify potential problem areas for parolees and develop action plans to address these areas. Through the work of volunteers, parolee programs have been established to address life skills such as anger management, stress management, communication, alcohol and chemical dependency, and employment skills.

Within the Correctional Institutions Division (prisons, state jails and private facilities) and the Community Justice Assistance Division, volunteers provide the offenders with support and training in substance abuse, spiritual guidance, parenting and family skills, as well as emotional balance and understanding. Volunteers also assist in conducting programs that offer life skills training, counseling, and literacy and language tutoring, to include specialized teaching for learning disabilities.

Throughout the agency, the dedication and commitment of volunteers is evident and vital. Considering statistics alone, for fiscal year 2004, between the approved and special volunteers, over 543,000 hours were served and more than 4,500,000 offender contacts were made.

Making a difference? Yes, they are. As their service and talents change the lives of offenders, offender families, employees and victims, these volunteers help Texas continue to be the great state that it is.

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