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There was continued discussion regarding unfunded liabilities and their potential impact on the state pension funds during the May 20 meeting of the Employees Retirement System (ERS) Board of Trustees. TDCJ Executive Director Brad Livingston, who was one of several state agency heads asked to participate in panel discussions regarding the pension system, said the ERS is looking ahead to when the 84th Texas Legislature will convene in January 2015 and trying to build support for action that will further strengthen the long-term fiscal health of the pension funds.
"The bottom line," said Livingston, "is that while ERS believes the measures taken last legislative session were helpful and the short-term outlook is good, they strongly feel that more needs to be done from the long-term perspective."
The ERS invited legislators, staff representing the governor and legislative leadership, agency officials and representatives of various employee associations to attend the meeting and join the discussions. While no specific plan was presented during the meeting, the ERS intends to present the 84th Texas Legislature with recommendations for enhancing the financial standing of the pension funds. Based on the discussions which took place during the May 20 meeting and a prior meeting of the board of trustees, it appears likely the ERS will recommend a combination of measures. During the last legislative session lawmakers approved an increase in employee contributions phased-in over time, additional state agency contributions and changes in retirement benefits for employees hired on or after September 1, 2013.
Livingston said that without a specific proposal to consider, agency officials continued to emphasize how critical the pension plans are, in combination with wages and health insurance, to employee morale, recruitment and retention. No one disputed the importance of an adequate benefit package for state employees, said Livingston, and he added that he looks forward to working with the Legislature, the ERS, other state agencies and employee advocacy groups during the next legislative session to ensure a sound pension system for years to come.
The Connections newsletter will provide additional updates from any future meeting of the ERS Board of Trustees.
During National Pretrial, Probation and Parole Supervision Week, July 13 to 19, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) will recognize the dedicated men and women who supervise offenders in the community for their commitment to offender rehabilitation and public safety.
TDCJ and Community Supervision and Corrections Departments (CSCD) have more than 1,400 parole officers and 3,300 probation officers who work throughout the state supervising thousands of offenders living in our communities. These officers are critical to successful rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders so that they may become law-abiding and productive members of society.
TDCJ Community Justice Assistance Division Director Carey Welebob acknowledged the dedicated service of probation officers who work at CSCD offices, saying, "We owe a debt of gratitude to probation officers throughout Texas who routinely work to keep the public safe while helping low-level offenders get the support they need to avoid incarceration in a criminal justice facility."
TDCJ Parole Division Director Stuart Jenkins expressed his appreciation for the loyal service of officers within his division, noting that "Parole officers supervise over 87,000 offenders throughout the state. These officers are committed to providing public safety and encouraging positive change in offender behavior. Their work requires great sacrifice, dedication and integrity."
TDCJ Executive Director Brad Livingston joined division directors Welebob and Jenkins in expressing appreciation to those supervising offenders in the community, describing them as "dedicated public servants who promote public safety by not only monitoring offender behavior, but also affecting a positive change in that behavior."
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 this annual event can be found at the American Probation and Parole Association website.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) has requested the American Correctional Association (ACA) begin auditing TDCJ facilities for compliance with Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) standards. According to Executive Director Brad Livingston, the ACA review will benefit the agency even though full compliance is unlikely because of concerns regarding one PREA standard.
"Compliance with one requirement intended to enhance offender privacy may not be feasible due to the restrictions that would be imposed on female staff working in male institutions," said Livingston, "but the remaining standards are consistent with the agency's zero-tolerance policy for sexual abuse. It will be a PREA compliance audit, but since the standards, with one exception, mirror agency policy, it's actually a good review of our own procedures and practices."
PREA Ombudsman Ralph Bales said the request demonstrates a strong commitment to the agency's zero-tolerance policy as well as the spirit and intent of the federal PREA legislation.
"I applaud the agency's diligence and commitment to enhancing the current policies and procedures to gain compliance with the PREA national standards, with perhaps one exception. The request to initiate the audit process with the American Corrections Association is indicative of the leadership's commitment to the zero-tolerance policy and general support of the standards," said Bales.
Bales added that he looks forward to reviewing the results of the audits and continuing to work with TDCJ and the Office of the Inspector General to protect offenders from sexual abuse.
The ACA auditors are expected to begin site visits to TDCJ facilities in late August. The agency expects about 30 facilities will be included in the first round of audits, with additional facilities being reviewed over the next two years.
The ACA was recently certified by the U.S. Department of Justice to conduct PREA compliance audits. Representatives of the ACA have frequently visited TDCJ facilities in conjunction with the association's accreditation process. Bill Stephens, director of the Correctional Institutions Division, said he appreciated the ACA review team adding Texas to their agenda.
"ACA auditors have consistently demonstrated professionalism and a thorough understanding of prison operations," Stephens said. "I am certain their services are in high demand right now and thank the organization for accommodating our request."
In May, Joe Grimes was named Region IV director for the Correctional Institutions Division (CID).
Grimes began his career with TDCJ in 1987 as a correctional officer at the Wynne Unit in Huntsville and has held every CID ranking position throughout his career, including assistant warden at the Clements and Darrington units. In 2010, he promoted to senior warden at the Hightower Unit and was most recently senior warden at the John B. Connally Unit in Kenedy, Texas.
CID Director William Stephens congratulated Grimes on his promotion, saying, "Mr. Grimes is highly respected by all. His 26 years of correctional experience, along with his strong leadership qualities, will serve the agency well."
In May, Julie Morales was selected as Region IV Director for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) Parole Division.
With more than 22 years of experience with TDCJ, Morales has served in multiple positions of increasing responsibility within the Parole Division. She began her career in 1991 as a parole officer in Dallas and has held several supervisory positions, including unit supervisor and parole supervisor. Morales received a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice from the University of Texas at San Antonio and most recently served as assistant director for Region IV in San Antonio.
Congratulating Morales on her appointment, TDCJ Parole Division Director Stuart Jenkins said, "The Parole Division will continue to benefit from Ms. Morales' extensive experience and leadership abilities. Her diverse skill set will serve TDCJ well as she assumes her new role."
Billy Hirsch was selected as deputy director for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) Private Facility Contract Monitoring Oversight Division, effective May 1.
Hirsch began his career with TDCJ in 1986 as a correctional officer and has earned more than 27 years of experience with the agency. He promoted through the correctional ranks, and in 2005 became assistant warden at the Polunsky Unit in Livingston. In 2010, he was named senior warden at the Goree Unit and most recently, senior warden for the Wynne Unit in Huntsville.
Private Facility Contract Monitoring Oversight Division Director Oscar Mendoza commended Hirsch on his appointment, saying, "Mr. Hirsch exhibits the required mix of integrity, judgment and work ethic and brings strong operational oversight and leadership abilities to his new position."
Carol Monroe was named deputy director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s (TDCJ) Administrative Review and Risk Management (ARRM) Division, effective May 1.
Monroe has more than 19 years experience with TDCJ, beginning his career as a correctional officer in 1994. He promoted through the ranks and in 2007 was appointed assistant warden at the Garza East Transfer Facility in Beeville. In 2013 he was promoted to senior warden at the Terrell Unit in Rosharon.
Congratulating Monroe on his recent appointment, ARRM Director Paul Morales said, "Mr. Monroe's leadership skills, vast knowledge of the agency and work experience will be an asset to the ARRM Division."
The Captain Joe Byrd Cemetery received a Historic Texas Cemetery marker during a dedication ceremony held on May 5 in Huntsville. The twenty-two-acre burial ground is located one mile from the Huntsville Walls Unit and is the final resting place for more than three thousand offenders who died while incarcerated.
The land was gifted to the state in 1855 but remained unkempt and overgrown until a longtime assistant warden at the Walls Unit, Captain Joe Byrd, began restoration of the cemetery in 1963.
Visitors can now learn the story of the Captain Joe Byrd Cemetery by reading this recently-unveiled Historic Texas Cemetery marker. First used as a burial ground in the 1850s, more than 900 graves were discovered as the cemetery was cleared of debris in the 1960s.
Members of the Walker County Historical Commission worked with the Texas Historical Commission to apply for and obtain the historical marker, which was presented to Region I Director Richard Alford. Accepting the marker on behalf of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) Alford stated, "It is with great pride that we commemorate the Captain Joe Byrd Cemetery as a Historic Texas Cemetery. This cemetery is a representation of TDCJ's commitment to ensuring offenders' dignity and respect, even after death."
Taken around 1960, this photo shows Captain Joe Byrd standing next to a monument honoring Chief Satanta, a Native American of the Kiowa tribe. Originally buried in the prison cemetery in 1878, Satanta's remains were transferred to Ft. Sill, Oklahoma in 1963.
The cemetery is located on Bowers Boulevard, just east of Sycamore Drive in Huntsville. A short history of the Captain Joe Byrd Cemetery can be found on the Texas Prison Museum website.
The third-quarter challenge, which ran from April to May, was a tremendous success. Participating employees collectively accumulated more than 2 million points, which means we have achieved more than 39 million points so far for the 2014 Challenge. Amazing results! Congratulations!
Congratulations to all participating departments and offices, and to all our competitors. You did a great job! Thank you again for your support of this fitness initiative and I look forward to your continued participation.
19 or fewer employees
|Board of Criminal Justice and Austin Executive Administration||Parole Division Headquarters||Snyder Institutional Parole Office|
20 to 39 employees
|Region III Director's Office - CID||
Office of the General Counsel
|Internal Audit Division|
40 to 99 employees
|Administrative Review and Risk Management||State Counsel for Offenders||Health Services Division|
100 to 199 employees
|Correctional Training Administration - CID||Glossbrenner Unit - CID||Havins Unit - CID|
200 to 299 employees
|Hobby Unit - CID||Boyd Unit - CID||LeBlanc Unit - CID|
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|
During the third 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 of the Gurney Unit earned the most points among the agency's 108 Platinum Challengers, and Waco Parole Hearing's Louis Perez was the point leader among 269 Gold Challenge participants.
Click on the links below for complete lists of successful Gold and Platinum Challenge participants.