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An employee publication of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice
May/June 2017
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Executive director's legislative update

By Bryan Collier

TDCJ executive director Bryan Collier
 
Bryan Collier
 

The regular session of the 85th Texas Legislature concluded on May 29. While Governor Abbot has announced that there will be a special session later this summer to address a number of policy issues, it appears the 85th Legislature has concluded their work on matters related to criminal justice and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

With few exceptions, appropriations to TDCJ for the next two fiscal years will remain at the current FY 2016-17 appropriated levels. Since the appropriation process began with state agencies having to submit an initial budget proposal showing the impact of a 4 percent reduction, maintaining current funding is a very positive outcome.

The most notable exception to continued FY 2016-17 funding levels involves a reduction associated with declining offender populations. Four TDCJ correctional facilities will close this summer, to include the Ware Unit in Colorado City and three privately-operated facilities: the Bartlett State Jail, West Texas Intermediate Sanction Facility and Bridgeport Pre-Parole Transfer Facility. This budget reduction should not be viewed negatively, as it is the result of the state's successful investment in, and the agency's successful implementation of, diversion and treatment programs.

In conjunction with these unit closures, the Rudd Unit in Brownfield will be repurposed to serve as an Intermediate Sanction Facility for parole violators.

The agency is working to help Ware Unit staff transfer to the neighboring Wallace Unit and other nearby facilities, and every Ware Unit employee has been offered another position within TDCJ. The agency is also recruiting displaced private sector employees to help fill existing vacancies.

As to employee benefits, legislators continued funding the state's share of health care costs and also maintained the state's current contribution rates for employee pensions. These decisions, along with the passage of the Employees Retirement System's Sunset bill, were positive developments for all state employees.

In regards to other legislation, several bills were enacted that will have a positive impact. Examples include statutory changes that will: make it a misdemeanor offense to fly drones over correctional facilities at a height of less than 400 feet, facilitate parolee reporting to parole offices or other authorized locations that may require travel through a child safety zone, and transfer responsibility for paying insurance contributions for Community Supervision and Corrections Department employees from TDCJ to ERS.

In summary, a legislative session which began amid concerns about significant budget reductions ended with adequate funding and some beneficial amendments to state law. While the agency did not get all the funding requested for certain items such as renovation and repair of existing facilities or offender healthcare, we received sufficient funding to fulfill our vital mission. I want to thank Governor Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Patrick, Speaker Straus and all the members of the 85th Texas Legislature for their support of the agency and our employees.

During the summer this agency will work diligently to implement the funding and policy decisions made by the 85th Texas Legislature. To the extent any issues addressed during the upcoming special session impact TDCJ or our workforce, we will continue to keep you advised through this newsletter and the agency website.

As always, thank you once again for your efforts on behalf of all Texans. Having met with many policymakers throughout the legislative session, I can assure you your efforts are appreciated in the state capitol.

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Fallen Officers honored at annual memorial ceremony

The 18th Annual Fallen Officers Memorial ceremony was held on May 5 at the Sesquicentennial Plaza at the Texas Prison Museum in Huntsville. The ceremony, held to honor staff who lost their lives in the line of duty, served as an opening event for the 2017 National Correctional Officers and Employees Week.


Photo of Telford Unit employees and guests releasing balloons at a May memorial ceremony for unit employees
who have passed away.

Telford Unit employees and guests release balloons at a May memorial ceremony for unit employees who have passed away, including Correctional Officer Timothy Davison who lost his life due to an offender assault.

This year's memorial service held special significance as TDCJ honored the loss of Correctional Officer Mari Anne Johnson. On July 16, 2016, CO Johnson was killed when she was attacked by an offender while performing her duties at the Robertson Unit in Abilene. The event's keynote speaker, TDCJ Executive Director Bryan Collier, commented on Officer Johnson's sacrifice, saying "The State of Texas lost a dedicated public servant, her colleagues lost a friend, and her children lost a mother. Officer Johnson left this world too soon."

During the Fallen Officers Memorial ceremony, young live oak trees are planted around the perimeter of the Plaza as a living memorial of those we've lost throughout the year. Officer Johnson's tree will join 70 others already planted on the Plaza grounds. "It’s with great sorrow we will plant another tree today," Collier added. "The memorial behind me and those trees dotting this property are a constant reminder of extraordinary sacrifice made while performing daily acts of heroism."


Photo of Members of TDCJ’s Correctional Institutions Division Region IV Honor Guard standing by the Missing Officer’s Table during the Fallen Officers Memorial Cermeony held in Huntsville.

Members of TDCJ's Correctional Institutions Division Region IV Honor Guard present the Missing Officer's Table during the Fallen Officers Memorial Cermeony held in Huntsville.

Similar memorial ceremonies were held around the state and around the country during National Correctional Officers and Employees Week, including one at the Telford Unit held in honor of Timothy Davison who lost his life due to an offender assault in 2015. Staff and guests released balloons to honor the 45 Telford employees who have passed away since the unit opened in 1995.

TDCJ mourns the passing of Correctional Officer Shana Tedder. See Saluting Employees article, this issue.

The week also allowed for celebration of the sustained hard work and dedication of the men and women who work for TDCJ throughout the state, and units were encouraged to hold luncheons and activities to celebrate and show appreciation for the work done by TDCJ employees every day. Texas Board of Criminal Justice Chairman Dale Wainwright acknowledged this dedication during the Memorial Ceremony, noting that “The individuals who work with our offenders are the backbone of the operations of this agency. Their dedication to protecting the offenders, their fellow employees, and the citizens of Texas is an inspiration.” The Texas House of Representatives also honored the vital public service provided by correctional officers and employees by voting to adopt House Resolution No. 1779 authored by House Corrections Committee Chairman James White.

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Pretrial, Probation and Parole Supervision Week begins July 16

2017 pretrial, probation and parole supervision week logo. July 16-22. Empowerment through partnerships. Clients, Employees, Communities.

The 2017 Pretrial, Probation and Parole Supervision Week takes place from July 16 to 22, and this year's theme; Clients, Communities, Employees: Empowerment through Partnerships, highlights the need for effective collaboration among these three parties to help maintain public safety and improve the chances for successful rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders into society.

Pretrial, Probation and Parole Supervision Week is an opportunity for the agency and the public to recognize and honor the work of more than 1,400 TDCJ parole officers who oversee more than 85,000 offenders under active parole supervision, and nearly 3,100 probation officers, who directly supervise more than 240,000 felony and misdemeanor offenders in Texas.

TDCJ Parole Division Director Pamela Thielke expressed deep gratitude, appreciation and pride for the positive impact parole officers have on supervised clients. "The success of a client reflects an organized approach through the collaboration of many criminal justice professionals, to include our sister divisions, that prepare for and promote a positive reintegration, a vigilant mindfulness to public safety and continued support to address the needs for each individual."

TDCJ Community Justice Assistance Division Director Carey Welebob stressed the importance of collaboration among probationers, communities and Community Supervision and Corrections Department staff, noting that "Community supervision officers supervise probationers in their communities and work with local organizations to provide programs and treatment for probationers. Collaboration among these parties increases the chances for offenders to avoid incarceration and succeed as law-abiding citizens in their local communities."

TDCJ Executive Director Bryan Collier, whose career with the agency has included multiple positions in the Parole Division, to include division director for 5 ½ years, said he wholeheartedly agreed with the comments offered by Ms. Thielke and Ms. Welebob, and thanked all the men and women who supervise offenders in communities across Texas for their public service, saying "Thank you for your contributions to public safety. Your efforts are deeply appreciated."

During National Pretrial, Probation and Parole Supervision Week, agency parole offices will host a variety of activities in honor of their officers' service. More information about National Pretrial, Probation and Parole Supervision Week can be found at the American Probation and Parole Association website.

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Zika virus hazards, prevention

Warm summer temperatures and wet weather conditions have combined to create an active mosquito season this year, increasing the chances of being infected with a mosquito-borne illness like the Zika virus.

Image of mosquito with red cross-out circle over it.

The Zika virus is most often spread by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito, which bite during both day and nighttime hours and are responsible for transmitting many viruses, including Zika. The virus can also be transmitted by sexual intercourse and possibly blood transfusion, though this route of infection has not been confirmed.

Zika can be transmitted from an infected pregnant woman to her fetus, possibly causing a serious birth defect. Other problems have been detected among infants infected with the Zika virus before birth, including eye defects, hearing deficits and impaired growth. There have also been increased reports of Guillain-Barre syndrome, an uncommon disorder of the nervous system.

Symptoms of Zika infection vary from case to case. Many people infected with Zika experience only mild symptoms, and some might not show any symptoms at all. The most common symptoms are fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes. Muscle pain and headache might also occur, though to a lesser degree. These symptoms can last from a few days to a week, and those infected with the virus usually don’t get sick enough to go to the hospital. People infected with Zika are likely to develop immunity to future infections and deaths from Zika are very rare.

Diagnosis of Zika is based on recent travel history, symptoms and medical test results. A blood or urine test is necessary to confirm a Zika infection, because symptoms of Zika are similar to other illnesses spread through mosquito bites, like dengue fever and chikungunya. Your doctor or healthcare provider can order tests to check for several types of mosquito-borne infections.

Currently, there is no specific medicine or vaccine to treat a Zika infection. The best way to deal with the virus is to treat the symptoms by getting plenty of rest, drinking fluids to prevent dehydration, and taking a medication such as acetaminophen to reduce fever and pain. Do not take aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). If you are taking medicine for another medical condition, talk to your healthcare provider before taking additional medication.

TDCJ's health service providers, the University of Texas Medical Branch and Texas Tech Health Science Center, coordinate with the agency's Health Services Division to help prevent and treat Zika infections, in compliance with agency's health service policies. To maintain situational awareness of the Zika threat, information updates are emailed to the agency's executive staff, with additional updates provided as needed.

TDCJ units issue insect repellent to offenders who typically work outside; this includes agricultural, kennel, yard squad, landscaping and other jobs. Insect-repellent towelettes are also available through unit commissaries. Unit staff work to prevent any accumulation of standing water where mosquitos might breed, and replace damaged window screens where flying insects might enter. Units also participate in a comprehensive pest control program designed to control a wide variety of pests and administered by the agency's Manufacturing, Agribusiness and Logistics Division.

Image of can of mosquito sprqy.

The best way to prevent being infected by mosquito-borne disease is to protect yourself from being bitten. Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, and treat your clothing with an insect repellent like permethrin, or buy clothing that has been pretreated.

Use an insect repellent which includes one of the following active ingredients: DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol, or 2-undecanone. When used as directed, these repellents have been proven safe and effective even for pregnant and breastfeeding women. Do not use insect repellents on babies younger than two months old, or products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol on children younger than three years old. At home, use window and door screens to keep mosquitoes out, and use mosquito netting to protect babies younger than two months old in carriers, strollers or cribs.

To learn more about the Zika virus, visit the Zika information page at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

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Be prepared: Hurricane season continues through November

The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season began on June 1 and continues through the end of November, and forecasts range from slightly above average to slightly below average storm activity for the year. The effect of El Nino currents on water temperatures in the Atlantic will help determine how active the season will be, but keep in mind that even one storm, depending on its strength and where it makes landfall, can make for a busy season.

Satellite image of large Atlantic hurricane off the east coast of the U.S..

An average Atlantic hurricane season produces 12 named storms of which six become hurricanes, including three major hurricanes. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecasts average or slightly above-average hurricane season activity, and predicts a 70 percent likelihood of 11 to 17 named Atlantic storms, with winds of 39 mph or more. Five to nine of these could become hurricanes with winds over 74 mph, and two to four of these could be major hurricanes bringing winds of 111 mph or greater. Colorado State University’s Tropical Meteorology Project forecasts an average year for activity in the tropical Atlantic, with 13 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes.

TDCJ employees commonly deal with inclement weather during their normal workday, but when a large-scale weather emergency such as a hurricane threatens to strike Texas, the agency relies on effective response planning and staff training to continue operations with minimal disruption. TDCJ gets ready for every hurricane season by preparing an emergency response plan and training staff how to respond during weather-related and other types of emergencies. During such emergencies, the Office of Incident Management (OIM), in coordination with agency divisions and departments, oversees the agency’s emergency preparedness and response activities.

OIM oversees development of the agency's emergency response and continuity of operations plans, trains agency staff on specific emergency response roles, and oversees some transport activities for the State Emergency Management Plan, which includes management of a wide assortment of state transportation assets. OIM and other agency representatives coordinate emergency response activities that involve everything from the evacuation of offenders to the delivery of provisions to affected facilities.

When hurricanes threaten, OIM monitors the storm's approach and keeps senior agency staff aware of its strength and where it might make landfall. If TDCJ operations might be affected, central command staff gathers in Huntsville to develop detailed response plans. Throughout the emergency, OIM maintains communications with senior agency managers and other appropriate groups.

While the OIM and Emergency Command Center coordinate the agency's emergency response, it is the front line staff who successfully confront logistical challenges that may range from evacuation of thousands of offenders to delivering emergency provisions, all while maintaining security. Despite the obstacles nature throws their way, TDCJ employees routinely rise to the occasion and ensure the agency’s vital public safety mission is achieved. When the storm has passed, OIM coordinates with the Business and Finance Division to seek reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for storm-related costs incurred by TDCJ, which can run into millions of dollars.

Tropical weather safety and emergency response preparation

Everyone who lives where tropical storms might strike should know what to do in the event of a hurricane. Emergency response preparations are especially important for some TDCJ staff members who must provide critical services during weather conditions which will force most businesses to close and may require their family to evacuate for an undetermined length of time. In some cases, TDCJ employees from unaffected areas of the state may report to potential impact areas so local staff members have time to evacuate their family and prepare their personal property before the storm hits.

When a tropical storm approaches, the best plan is to evacuate if instructed to by authorities. Before the emergency strikes, find out where your nearest storm shelter is located and have an evacuation plan in place. Also, have an emergency communications plan in place so you can notify family and friends. Ready.gov is a great website for help with preparedness planning.

Image of street warning sign indicating flood waters.

During a tropical storm, remember that water surge and floods are usually more significant threats than wind, and even a small hurricane can cause a large surge. A good weather-safety rule during tropical storms is to run from water and hide from wind.

If you do not evacuate and must stay in place to ride out a hurricane, keep an emergency supply kit on hand. This kit should include enough drinking water and nonperishable foods to last several days, any special foods for infants or the elderly, personal toiletries and medications, blankets and pillows, a first aid kit, flashlight and batteries, fully-charged cell phones and a battery-operated radio or NOAA weather radio.

For more information regarding hurricanes, visit the National Hurricane Center website or contact the Office of Incident Management at 936-437-6038.

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Chairman’s Fitness Challenge FY17: second-quarter results

By Dale Wainwright, TBCJ Chairman

 

The second-quarter challenge, which ran from January 23 through March 5, was a notable success. Those who took on the challenge accumulated a total of 24,703,753 points!

Congratulations to all departments, offices and individuals who took part. Thank you for your support of this fitness initiative.

  FIRST SECOND THIRD
Division 1:
19 or fewer employees
Texas Board of Criminal Justice and Austin Executive Administration Executive Director's Office Huntsville Galveston Parole
Division 2:
20 to 39 employees
Internal Audit Division Support Operations – CID Office of the General Counsel
Division 3:
40 to 99 employees
Palestine Institutional Parole Office Administrative Review and Risk Management Division Board of Pardons and Paroles
Division 4:
100 to 199 employees
Correctional Training Administration - CID Human Resources Division Information Technology Division
Division 5:
200 to 299 employees
Byrd Unit - CID Boyd Unit - CID Classification/
Records - CID
Division 6:
300 plus employees
Manufacturing, Agribusiness and Logistics Division Wallace/Ware Units - CID Jester IV Unit - CID
Division 7: Windham School District (WSD) WSD North
Texas Region
WSD West
Texas Region
WSD South
Texas Region

 

Gold and Platinum Challenges

During the second quarter, Gold Challenge participants had to earn 1,000 points during each week of the challenge and those who took on the Platinum Challenge were required to earn at least 2,500 points per week. Darrell Frith from the Wallace Unit earned the most points among the agency’s 136 Platinum Challenge participants, and Angenette Gonzales was the point leader among 422 Gold Challenge participants.

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Agency News

 

 

 

 

 

star bulletBoard Bulletin

star bulletAgency News

Executive director's legislative update

Fallen Officers honored at annual memorial ceremony

Pretrial, Probation and Parole Supervision Week begins
July 16

Zika virus hazards, prevention

Be prepared: Hurricane season continues through November

Chairman's Fitness Challenge FY17: second-quarter results

star bulletPolicies and Benefits

star bullet Saluting Employees