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An employee publication of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice
November/December 2014
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TDCJ executive director anticipates upcoming 84th Texas Legislature

Editor's Note: The 84th Texas Legislature convenes on Tuesday, January 13. TDCJ Executive Director Brad Livingston recently answered questions about the upcoming legislative session.
 

It has been reported that the state has a budget surplus.
Is that true?

The Texas economy has continued to grow during the last two years, to the point that state revenue has been greater than anticipated. Fiscal experts are predicting an unspent balance of at least several billion dollars by the end of the fiscal year. So in that sense there is a surplus, but with all the competing demands for state funds, the statutory limit on state spending and the high priority Texas policy makers place on controlling state spending, a surplus doesn’t mean money won’t be tight. I have no doubt the Legislature will continue to emphasize fiscal restraint during the appropriations process.

 

So what will be the agency’s priorities during the
appropriations process?

The first priority is, of course, maintaining the "base" funding necessary to continue current operations, and even that requires some additional funding. After that, we have identified a number of so-called exceptional items, the largest of which is a 10 percent pay increase for uniformed security staff and parole officers. That item alone would require an additional $235 million during the FY 2016-17 biennium. Other priority funding requests involve offender health care, repair and rehab of existing facilities and expansion of various treatment and diversion programs. We also advocate for an across-the-board pay raise for all state employees as well as adequate funding for employee pensions and health insurance.

 

Do you think the Legislature will give TDCJ the additional funding we have requested?

Regardless of the state's budget situation, no legislature could ever afford to give every agency all the funding they seek. As always, legislators will have to prioritize among the many competing demands for limited state resources.

 

You mentioned adequate funding for employee pensions. What is the status of the retirement fund?

According to ERS (Employees Retirement System), the short term outlook is fine, but maintaining the fiscal soundness of the retirement program for the longer term requires further action. This agency strongly supports the ERS request for additional funding.

 

What other issues involving the agency will likely be considered during the upcoming legislative session?

There won't be any Sunset legislation this time since we just went through that process last session. The Legislature has had success in shrinking the size of the inmate population through various means, to include expanding treatment and diversion programs, and I think you will see a continued emphasis on alternative sentencing for nonviolent offenders. In January the Legislative Budget Board (LBB) will release updated projections of offender population. While I anticipate their projections will show a relatively stable inmate population during the next five years, which is good compared to years past, policymakers will consider ways to further reduce the number of incarcerated offenders.

 

Could that lead to more prison closings?

It's hard to say, as it would depend on how much the population decreases, but with vacant positions and normal attrition there would be opportunities to mitigate the impact of any closures on our employees.

 

During the upcoming session, will the agency continue to provide updates regarding the budget process?

As in past legislative sessions, we will use the TDCJ website and employees' newsletter to keep employees informed of the legislation most directly impacting the agency and our workforce. We will, of course, closely monitor the appropriations bill, which determines the state's budget for the next two fiscal years.

 

Is there anything else you would like to add about
the upcoming session?

During my 10 years as executive director of TDCJ there have been five regular sessions of the Legislature, more if you count special sessions. During every session I am always struck by how many members take the time to express their deep respect and appreciation for TDCJ employees. I wish all our employees could hear it for themselves, but please know that in the Capitol you are recognized as dedicated public servants who are helping to keep Texans safe. Thank you.

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Programs help Ad Seg offenders transition to general population

Administrative segregation, often referred to as "Ad Seg," refers to the non-punitive separation of an offender from general population in order to maintain safety and security. Typically, offenders are placed in Ad Seg if they pose a threat to others, are confirmed members of the most dangerous and organized gangs, or have exhibited repeated behaviors that create a continued security risk. Ad Seg offenders are housed in individual cells where they have limited contact with other offenders.

Since 2002, the Gang Renunciation and Disassociation program has helped offenders with a history of gang involvement transition from administrative segregation to the general population if they are willing to renounce their gang affiliation. More than 4,000 GRAD participants have returned to the general population since the program began, and almost every offender has successfully remained in a less restrictive custody level.

 


Rehabilitation Programs Division Case Manager Veronica Williams teaching a cognitive intervention class at the Ellis Unit

Rehabilitation Programs Division Case Manager Veronica Williams teaches a cognitive intervention class to GRAD program participants at the Ellis Unit.

 

Recently, TDCJ has implemented a new program, the Administrative Segregation Transition Program, designed to help prepare offenders who are not members of a security threat group and whose behavior may warrant release from administrative segregation for the transition to general population. Participants in the ASTP spend six hours a day in the classroom covering topics such as cognitive intervention, anger management, work preparation, life skills and substance abuse triggers. The curriculum focuses on teaching improved interpersonal skills, relaxation techniques, goal setting and coping strategies. Additional non-mandatory classes such as bible study and 12-step programs are also offered. After completing the 4-month program, offenders possess the tools they need to increase their chances for success in the less restrictive environment. As Supervisor Steven Gaddis explains, "We're giving them the opportunity to develop an emotional vocabulary and the cognitive skills that will help them manage their thoughts and be successful in a general population setting."

Through the ASTP and GRAD programs offenders are given an opportunity to return to general population, and for those motivated to change, the cognitive intervention, anger management and other treatment modalities can positively impact their behavior, and by doing so help create a safer environment for TDCJ staff and the offender population.

For offenders who are releasing from administrative segregation to the street, programs like the Administrative Segregation Pre-Release and the Serious and Violent Offender Rehabilitation Initiative focus on preparing them for reentry into the community. Anger management, substance abuse treatment, coping strategies and cognitive intervention are among the subjects addressed by the programs. The ultimate intent of these programs, as well as all other TDCJ programs, is to enhance public safety by positively impacting offender behavior.

According to Executive Director Brad Livingston, the multiple programs treating Ad Seg offenders or providing alternatives to administrative segregation for others are, in addition to enhancing public, staff and offender safety, helping to meet legislative expectations regarding a reduction in the Ad Seg population.

"Legislators in Texas and across the nation have expressed interest in using alternatives to administrative segregation wherever possible, and the programs we have put in place have helped achieve a reduction in the Ad Seg population while maintaining a maximum-security setting for offenders who require that level of supervision," said Livingston. "This agency will continue to explore alternatives that are consistent with safety and security requirements, and continue to use administrative segregation for offenders who require maximum-security housing."

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Sharp named PREA ombudsman


PREA ombudsman Lynne Sharp

Lynne Sharp

In November, the Texas Board of Criminal Justice appointed Lynne Sharp, a 24-year TDCJ veteran, as the agency's Prison Rape Elimination Act ombudsman, whose responsibilities include coordinating agency efforts to eliminate sexual assault in its correctional facilities and providing an independent office to receive and respond to allegations of sexual assault.

Sharp began her TDCJ career in 1988 as a correctional officer and advanced to the rank of major before leaving to work in the private commercial transportation industry. In 2003 she rejoined the agency as an inventory coordinator for the Commissary and Trust Fund Department. She returned to the Correctional Institutions Division in 2004 and soon assumed the duties of Safe Prisons Program Coordinator for the Hughes Unit. She moved on to become a victim/peer education coordinator at the agency’s Safe Prisons Program Management Office, and subsequently promoted to Safe Prisons Program Manager where she oversaw daily operations and coordinated the agency's Safe Prisons/PREA initiatives. Sharp is a member of the National PREA Coordinators group and is a Department of Justice-certified PREA auditor.

Sharp served honorably in the United States Army and is a graduate of the American Intercontinental University where she earned a bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice with a concentration in Corrections and Case Management.

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Chairman's Fitness Challenge 2015:
first-quarter results

by Oliver J. Bell, TBCJ Chairman

The first-quarter Touchdown to World Series Chairman's Challenge, which ran from September to November, was a tremendous success. Participating employees accumulated more than 19 million points during the quarter. These are impressive results!

Congratulations to all participating departments and offices, and to all our competitors. Thank you for your support of this fitness initiative.

  FIRST SECOND THIRD
Division 1:
19 or fewer employees
Board of Criminal Justice and Austin Executive Administration Parole Division Headquarters Parole Specialized Programs
Division 2:
20 to 39 employees
Parole
Region III

Office of the General Counsel

CID Support Operations
Division 3:
40 to 99 employees
Administrative Review and Risk Management State Counsel for Offenders Health Services Division
Division 4:
100 to 199 employees
Correctional Training Administration - CID Glossbrenner Unit - CID Information Technology Division
Division 5:
200 to 299 employees
Hobby Unit - CID Cole State Jail - CID Boyd Unit - CID
Division 6:
300 plus employees
Manufacturing and Logistics Division Jester IV Unit - CID Wallace/Ware units - CID
Division 7: Windham School District (WSD) WSD West Texas Region WSD North Texas Region WSD South Texas Region

 

Gold and Platinum Challenges

During the fourth quarter, Gold Challenge participants had to earn 1,000 points during each week of the challenge, and Platinum Challenge participants were required to earn at least 2,500 points per week. Nikki Newman, Clerk III from the Gurney Unit, earned the most points among the agency's 113 Platinum challengers, and Dianne Fuller, Program Supervisor III from Agribusiness, Land and Minerals, was the point leader among 296 Gold Challenge participants.

Click on the links below for complete lists of successful Gold and Platinum Challenge participants.

Gold Challenge participants

Platinum Challenge participants

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TDCJ executive director anticipates upcoming 84th Texas Legislature

Programs help Ad Seg offenders transition to general population

Sharp named PREA ombudsman

Chairman's Fitness Challenge 2015: first-quarter results

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