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Offenders carry their personal belongings while being processed for release.
Photo by David Nunnelee
The trip to pick up her husband from state prison in Huntsville would have taken David Ramos wife nearly three hours by car. Instead, she had to drive just 15 minutes from their home in Dallas.
Ramos was one of 22 Correctional Institutions Division offenders released from the Hutchins State Jail near Dallas on September 1. The state jail is one of the new regional release centers where TDCJ now releases offenders at locations closer and more convenient for family and friends. Other new centers are located at the Clements Unit in Amarillo, the Robertson Unit in Abilene and the McConnell Unit in Beeville. Both the Huntsville Walls Unit and the Crain Unit in Gatesville remain release sites for male and female offenders, respectively, and all women exiting TDCJ other than state jail and SAFP offenders will still pass through the Crain Unit. In addition to processing releasees, all six centers continue to house and manage separate offender populations.
Correctional Institutions Division Director Rick Thaler said most male offenders are now transported to the regional release center closest to where they reside or are to be supervised. That not only shortens the distance TDCJ must transport some offenders, but also spares family members and friends from outlying areas of the state a long drive to Huntsville to pick up their loved ones.
The vast majority of individuals are now released in the region of the state where they will be under supervision or to their county of conviction, Thaler said. It makes sense to release these individuals to where, in many cases, their families have an opportunity to pick them up. Releasing from the regional sites will hopefully increase the opportunity for families and friends to provide transportation for these individuals and assist them with their transition back to the community.
Like the Huntsville and Crain units, the new release centers have designated family waiting areas. Offenders who are not picked up by family or friends are provided a bus voucher and transported by TDCJ to the local bus station for the ride to their final destinations.
More than 72,200 offenders were released by TDCJ during fiscal year 2009, but less than half of them passed through the two main release centers then in use. Some 24,000 state jail offenders and 6,690 offenders assigned to substance abuse felony punishment facilities were released directly from those units during the fiscal year. Another 5,260 offenders left the system directly from pre-parole transfer and in-prison therapeutic community facilities.
With all six release sites operating, Thaler expects that the number of offenders passing through the Huntsville Unit will decrease substantially. The unit will, however, continue as the only release facility for special needs offenders and those with special security precautions and detainers on file.
Our administrative segregation offenders are brought in here because we have established systems for the release of these high-custody individuals, Thaler said. Individuals with detainers pending come into the Huntsville Unit because it is a central location where law enforcement and other entities can come to take them into custody.
Thaler expects that the Huntsville Unit, which serves as the primary release center for offenders from the Houston metropolitan area, will continue to process the greatest number offenders each year.
The 82nd Texas Legislature convenes on Tuesday, January 11, 2011. Members of the Texas House and Senate may begin filing proposed legislation as early as Monday, November 8, 2010. However, most bills, to include the General Appropriations Act (the states proposed budget for the next two fiscal years) are usually filed after the legislative session begins. The 140-day regular session ends on Monday, May 30. Sunday, June 19 is the last day the governor can sign bills passed during the regular session, and on September 1, 2011 the new fiscal year begins.
Whenever the General Appropriations Act is filed, it will serve as the starting point for budget discussions which will occur throughout the remainder of the legislative session. It is generally expected that the bill, as filed, will contain substantial reductions in appropriations to state agencies, reflecting the most recent projections of state revenues for the next two fiscal years. No information is currently available regarding reductions to specific agencies like the Department of Criminal Justice. Once the General Appropriations Act is filed, the agency will be able to provide you with additional information via the Connections newsletter and the TDCJ website.
As there are inevitably amendments to the General Appropriations Act during the legislative session, any information provided prior to final adoption of the bill is preliminary. No final decision on the states budget for the Fiscal Year 2012 - 13 biennium is likely before May 2011.