TDCJ is often source for prison officials looking for information
For information, reporters go to the source. So do corrections professionals from across the country and around the world. And when they’re looking for answers, they very often come to Texas.
|At left, John Dovey, chief deputy director for field operations for the California Department of Corrections, talks with TDCJ Correctional Institutions Director Doug Dretke and Reengineering Project Manager Lynn Ayala about the agency’s successful effort to racially integrate prison cells in 1991. Ayala worked on the in-cell integration as a member of the Classification and Treatment department.
Photo by David Nunnelee
Such was the case in June when prison officials from California and Puerto Rico came to Texas to learn how TDCJ - long recognized as a leader in the corrections field - conducts its business.
“We are here to compare our system with the Texas system so we can implement some of the procedures you have here,” said Jorge Rodriguez, one of five Puerto Rican prison warden who spent more than a week touring TDCJ facilities. “In Texas, you do things better than in any other place in the States.”
At the same time, four California prison officials were spending three “very insightful and very productive” days learning how TDCJ racially integrated its prison cells back in 1991.
“In California, we still have a practice of segregating inmates by race in their cells,” said John Dovey, chief deputy director of field operations for the California Department of Corrections (CDC). “The processes that we found here and the history lessons that we learned here are going to help us find a pathway to implement cell integration without causing harm to staff or inmates.”
“Our goal will be to go back to our staff and develop a plan that will work for California,” added Suzan Hubbard, deputy director of CDC’s Institutions Division. “Texas has helped us do that.”
Like their Puerto Rican counterparts, the California officials toured a number of TDCJ facilities, talking with employees at all levels.
“The staff was extremely helpful from the very top to the boots on the ground,” Dovey said. “The facilities here are absolutely some of the cleanest, finest, and well-run prisons that we’ve ever been to in the country. We are very fortunate to have such a high-quality model that we can come and visit.”
The prison officials from Puerto Rico and California were just two of the groups that have come to Texas from out of state this year looking for answers. Earlier, prison officials from Colorado, Pennsylvania and Ohio paid visits.
“As correctional professional from other states come to Texas, they are always extremely impressed with how clean our facilities are, how well they’re managed, and they’re always very impressed with the staff,” said TDCJ Correctional Institutions Division Director Doug Dretke. “I think it’s a great compliment to the State of Texas and to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. We should be proud that we are well-recognized by correctional professionals from around the nation and from around the world.”
Dretke said TDCJ also learns from its out-of-state visitors.
“One of the really valuable things state correctional agencies can do with each other is learn from each other,” he said. “We all face the same challenges and have the same dynamics that impact our prison systems. But I firmly believe that we have the finest correctional professionals here that you will find anywhere in the nation, from our correctional officers to our wardens. I’m very proud of the people that really make it happen out on our facilities.”