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In September, the Sunset Advisory Commission completed a year's work when it issued a final report with recommendations for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, Windham School District and Correctional Managed Health Care Committee. The Sunset review process began with TDCJ and other agencies submitting a self-evaluation report to the Commission, followed by numerous meetings with and site visits by Sunset staff. Once Sunset staff issued their report and recommendations, the Commission met in a public hearing to consider agency and public responses. Then, in a subsequent public hearing conducted during September, Commission members decided which recommendations would be presented to the Legislature.
The Commission adopted most of the preliminary recommendations proposed by staff; with the following modifications (only those changes pertaining to TDCJ are shown):
All of these recommendations will be drafted into a bill and introduced during the upcoming 83rd Legislative session which convenes in January 2013. TDCJ Executive Director Brad Livingston said the Texas Department of Criminal Justice looks forward to working with the Legislature and the Commission in regards to all the recommendations, noting that the suggestions are intended to make the criminal justice system, which Sunset staff found to be working well, work even better.
As directed by the Legislative Budget Board (LBB) and the Governor's Office of Budget, Planning and Policy, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) submitted the fiscal representation of the agency's strategic plan, the FY 2014-2015 biennial TDCJ Legislative Appropriations Request (LAR), in August of this year. As requested by state leadership, the agency's "baseline" request for the 2014-15 biennium does not exceed 2012-13 general revenue-related funding levels.
The agency's LAR also seeks funding for "exceptional items" over and above baseline funding. These additional appropriations would address basic operational issues related to infrastructure needs and would continue the agency's emphasis on treatment, diversion and reentry. Examples of exceptional item funding sought in the FY 2014-2015 LAR include:
The agency's LAR also encourages the legislature to provide a pay raise for all employees. In the event such a pay raise is not financially feasible, the agency suggested a targeted pay raise for uniformed security staff.
All state agencies were also asked to produce a scenario which would reduce their 2014-15 base funding request by 10 percent. A 10 percent reduction in FY 2014-15 base funding for TDCJ, which would be in addition to the reductions made during FY 2011, would have an overwhelmingly negative impact on agency operations, to include a substantial reduction in force.
TDCJ Executive Director Brad Livingston said the LAR was prepared while taking into account both fiscal constraints and the agency's critical public safety priorities. He added that the state's financial situation looks brighter than it did two years ago, but emphasized the Legislature always has to deal with limited resources when appropriating limited funds among all state agencies.
"I think state government is definitely in a better situation today, but that doesn't mean legislators won't have to make difficult decisions regarding appropriations," said Livingston. "We approach this legislative session the same as we have every session; limit our funding requests to our highest priorities, and provide accurate information for use by elected officials in making their decisions."
The 83rd Texas Legislature will convene at noon on Tuesday, January 8, 2013. The regular session will end on Monday, May 27, 2013.
|General Counsel Sharon Howell|
In August, Executive Director Brad Livingston appointed Sharon Howell general counsel for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ). Howell began her law career in 1985 as a legal secretary for the Attorney General's office and attended The University of Texas School of Law from 1987 through 1990. After receiving her law license in 1990, Howell worked as assistant attorney general and was involved with all TDCJ class action litigation, including the Ruiz prison reform lawsuit. She began working for the TDCJ Office of the General Counsel in 2002 as director of preventive law, later becoming the director of legal affairs.
Announcing the appointment, Executive Director Brad Livingston stated, "Sharon's wealth of experience, combined with her strong leadership skills will serve TDCJ well as she assumes her new role as general counsel."
Howell replaced Melinda Bozarth, who retired after having served 29 years with the state of Texas.
|Reentry and Integration Division Director April Zamora|
In October, April Zamora was promoted to director of the agency's Reentry and Integration Division, having previously served as director of the Texas Correctional Office on Offenders with Mental and Medical Impairments (TCOOMMI).
Zamora began her criminal justice career in 1999 with the Texas Youth Commission, completing her master's degree while employed as a caseworker focused primarily on substance abuse treatment. She became a parole officer in 2000 and worked as administrator of the Parole Division's substance abuse counseling, drug testing and therapeutic community programs. Zamora went on to become TCOOMMI's programs supervisor, and was promoted to TCOOMMI director in 2009.
Announcing the appointment, Executive Director Brad Livingston said, "(Zamora's) strong leadership experience working with juvenile and adult offender populations, to include those with serious medical and mental impairments, will serve this agency well as she assumes her new role."
|Public Information Officer John Hurt|
John Hurt has been named public information director for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ). Hurt brings more than 35 years of award-winning media broadcast and public information experience to the Public Information Office, which serves as a liaison between TDCJ and the media. Before joining TDCJ in October, Hurt served a 19-year tenure as a public information officer for the Texas Department of Transportation.
|TDCJ-CID Region III Director Lorie Davis|
Lorie Davis, a 23-year agency veteran, has been promoted to Region III director for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice's (TDCJ) Correctional Institutions Division (CID). Davis, who holds a master's degree in public administration from Texas Tech, began her career as a correctional officer at the Ellis I Unit in Huntsville in 1988 and rose through the ranks to become senior warden of the Ellen Halbert Unit in 2005.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice's (TDCJ) Commissary and Trust Fund Department will initiate the eCommDirect purchase program in October, allowing families and friends of offenders to purchase up to $50 of commissary items for an offender every three months. Traditional money deposits to an offender's trust account may also be made through this program.
The commissary will initially offer its 100 best-selling items for direct purchase, with occasional updates to the product line. Purchase packages include a Sport Pack with nuts, chips, granola bars and other healthy snack foods, and a Hygiene Pack containing shampoo, conditioner, deodorant and other personal items. Other packages could include holiday-themed items.
Eligibility for the eCommDirect purchase program is restricted. Offenders classified as G4 or G5 custody, administrative segregation levels two or three, and those on commissary restriction are not allowed to receive commissary items directly purchased by family or friends.
The Texas.gov and TDCJ websites will link to eCommDirect when the system is operational, and program information will be posted in unit visitation areas.
"TDCJ has partnered with Texas.gov and we are diligently working on the final stages of the eCommDirect project," said Eric Johnston, Director of TDCJ's Commissary and Trust Fund Department. "We think this is going to be an excellent way for friends and family to treat their loved one to some items from the commissary. We receive a substantial number of phone calls every day inquiring about the program. The response has been very favorable and we are looking forward to providing this service for the offenders' families."
Thirty female offenders successfully completed TDCJ's Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) Recovery Program at the Halbert Unit in Burnet, marking their achievement with August graduation ceremonies attended by family, friends and supporters. The program is geared toward female offenders with multiple DWI convictions.
Texas Department of Criminal Justice Deputy Executive Director Bryan Collier praised the women in the inaugural class, saying, "You're the first graduates of the program, so your success is one that we all want to see happen. You've been given the tools. You've been given the skills. Now it will be up to you to apply them, and I wish you the very best of luck and we are very proud of each and every one of you."
The six-month program is taught by instructors certified by the Texas Department of State Health Services. A similar program at the East Texas Treatment Facility in Henderson serves male offenders with a history of multiple DWI convictions.
A class representative from the agency's DWI Recovery Program speaks to the audience on behalf of the other offender-graduates.
Photo by TDCJ Media Services
The fourth quarter of the FY 2012 Chairman's Olympic Fitness Challenge, Summer Olympics, was a great success. As with previous quarters, this challenge was designed to encourage employees to continue engaging in physical fitness activities and promote team participation.
Congratulations to the first, second and third place winners!
19 or fewer employees
|Board of Criminal Justice and Austin Executive Administration||Laundry, Food and Supply - Correctional Institutions Division||Dayton District Parole Office - Parole Division|
20 to 39 employees
|Office of the General Counsel||Internal Audit Division||Business and Finance Division|
40 to 99 employees
|Houston III Office - Parole Division||Administrative Review and Risk Management Division||Houston VII Office - Parole Division|
|Division 4: 100 to 199 employees||Sayle Unit - Correctional Institutions Division||Havins Unit - Correctional Institutions Division||Facilities Division|
|Division 5: 200 to 299 employees||Travis County State Jail - Correctional Institutions Division||Cole State Jail - Correctional Institutions Division||Region I Office - Parole Division|
|Division 6: 300 or more employees||Manufacturing and Logistics Division||Huntsville Unit - Correctional Institutions Division||Henley / Plane State Jails - Correctional Institutions Division|
|Division 7: Windham School District||WSD North Texas Region||WSD West Texas Region||WSD Administration|