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Veterans share the agency's core values
of hard work and job discipline
Tom Garey, Madeline Ortiz, Myra Walker and James Mossbarger are among the respected leaders within TDCJ whose job duties cover a wide range of responsibilities, but who share the distinction of having served in the United States Armed Forces. Each credits their military experience as the foundation for their successful careers with the agency.
Tom Garey is director of the Parole Division's Warrants Section. Garey began his military service in 1989 as a law enforcement specialist, and later as a corrections specialist, at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. After obtaining a criminal justice degree from Sam Houston State University, he began looking at correctional careers with TDCJ. Today, he credits his military service for teaching him job discipline, saying, "My time in the service taught me the value of dedication to duty, and how important it is to live a well-ordered life. When you combine a positive attitude with good work habits, you have a strong foundation for any professional career, especially one in criminal justice."
"As a veteran myself, I know first-hand the dedication, skills, and energy our veterans bring to any task. They are a valuable resource trained to make things happen. We at TDCJ understand this as do other employers in our state, and we stand ready to find the right opportunities for veterans to continue to serve the state and country as private citizens making a positive contribution to our local communities."
Oliver J. Bell, Chairman, Texas Board of Criminal Justice
Before assuming her duties as director of TDCJ's Rehabilitation and Reentry Division, Madeline Ortiz served for eight years with the Army Reserves as a military police officer, during which she learned hard work and discipline are critical to successful job performance. Asked to describe her experience with the military, Ortiz replied, "The men and women of the Armed Forces are dedicated, hard-working individuals, and the skills I learned serving my country have served me well in my current position." In her role as director of the Rehabilitation Programs Division, Ortiz oversees coordination of all agency offender treatment programs.
Myra Walker began her career in the military as a pediatric nurse for the Army Nurse Corps in 1981, and said serving in Desert Storm taught her to value each individual. "In the military, every person has a role and it was important for each person to understand that their role - no matter how small - contributes to the success of the mission." That philosophy continues to serve her in her current role as chief of the Office of Professional Standards for the Health Services Division. "By ensuring everyone knows the significance of their function, you're boosting morale and creating a professional environment."
"The agency is fortunate many veterans of the United States Armed Forces have chosen to continue their public service through careers with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. The contributions of our veterans are deeply appreciated, as is the dedication, hard work and public service of all TDCJ employees."
The Senior warden of the Ramsey Unit, James Mossbarger, began his military career in 1980, serving in the US Marine Corps. He credits his time in the service with teaching him the value of teamwork, "The Marines taught me that a successful leader is one that gives staff the tools they need to be successful. Every person in a team must be aware of the responsibilities of others and be able to step into a leadership role if needed." Mossbarger is a 28-year veteran of the agency.
The agency extends its gratitude to all TDCJ employees for their public service, and special thanks to those who have served in the United States Armed Forces.
During its five-year history, TDCJ's Offender Telephone System (OTS) has helped offenders maintain communication with families and friends in the community. In addition, the OTS is an important security and prison management tool and provides financial support for the Texas Crime Victims' Compensation Fund.
Texas was the last state to put pay phones in its prison facilities for regular offender use. Legislation passed in 2007 called for TDCJ to award a contract for the installation of the telephone system. TDCJ staff representing seven different departments reviewed proposals from three bidders for the telephone system contract. In 2008 the Texas Board of Criminal Justice awarded a contract to Embarq, a Kansas-based communications company later acquired by CenturyLink (CTL). Installation of the offender telephones began in 2009.
OTS allows eligible offenders unlimited minutes of phone time a month, though individual calls are limited to 20 minutes or less. Offenders may only call friends and family members whose names appear on their approved calling list. Crime victims and their families can block OTS calls, and all calls except those to an offender's attorney of record are subject to monitoring and recording. Offenders with major disciplinary problems, gang affiliations or on death row do not have access to the telephone system. Calls may only be made to home land line telephone numbers and post-paid cell phones. No calls are allowed to internet services, 800 numbers, businesses, pay phones or international numbers.
Prior to using the OTS, "voice prints" are created by offenders during the enrollment process. Bilingual software prompts an offender to state his or her full name four times into a telephone handset and then once again for verification. Offenders then designate the Texas Department of Criminal Justice as their "facility" by repeating the agency name in full, four times. To make a call, an offender enters the number being dialed on a keypad, followed by his or her TDCJ number, which serves as a Personal Identification Number or PIN. Offenders then verify their name by saying it in the same manner it was recorded during enrollment, and then say "Texas Department of Criminal Justice."
To receive calls, offender family and friends can register online at texasprisonphone.com or by calling CTL at 866-806-7804. The name on the registrant's driver's license or state identification card and the name on the telephone service bill/listing must match. Friends and family registrants must confirm that they are the registered owner of the telephone number and are not registering a prepaid cell phone number. They must agree to allow the offender to call the phone number. Registrants must also be at least 18 years old and confirm that they will not forward calls or make a 3-way call received from an offender. Only after an offender's name, PIN and the number dialed have been verified will a call go through.
According to TDCJ Reentry and Integration Division Director April Zamora, continued contact with free world supporters plays an important role in the reintegration of offenders into society. "Family reunification is a critical piece of the reentry process," said Zamora. "Telephone contact with friends, family and other support systems allows offenders to foster and maintain relationships with those critical support systems during incarceration, which can contribute to greater success upon return to the community."
Director of TDCJ's Correctional Institutions Division William Stephens added his perspective on how the OTS has generated benefits for both offenders and the agency, saying, "After five years, I can honestly say that the Offender Telephone System has been a very effective resource. Offenders are able to stay connected with a larger number of friends and families. These strong relationships foster hope and provide the offender with needed support. The OTS has also proven to be an effective resource in the management of the offender population and has assisted in investigations which result in a safer environment for staff and offenders."
When the OTS was authorized, the Texas Legislature appropriated additional funding for OIG investigator and criminal intelligence positions. The OIG is able to monitor an offender phone call made from any of the units throughout the system (other than a call to an offender's attorney of record). Monitoring is both random and targeted toward certain offenders, and is in addition to any monitoring that unit correctional staff may conduct.
As required by statute, Texas receives 40 percent of the gross billable revenue generated by the system. The first $10 million received within each fiscal year by the state is to be deposited in the Crime Victims' Compensation Fund, while all revenue beyond that will be split evenly between that fund and the state's General Revenue fund. More than $30 million has been deposited into the Crime Victims' Compensation Fund since the OTS began operating five years ago.
Angie McCown, director of TDCJ's Victim Services Division, explained how funds generated by OTS help aid crime victims. "The Crime Victims' Compensation (CVC) Program is supported through a legislative appropriation from the Compensation to Victims of Crime Fund. Revenue for the Fund is collected from convicted offenders through criminal court costs, fees, and fines, while victims of violence are assisted with expenses related to the crime. These expenses may include funeral costs, medical expenses, lost wages, counseling expenses and other costs associated with the crime. There are many losses a victim suffers as the result of violent crime victimization and the CVC Program is one avenue for addressing victims' financial losses."
Although the next regular session of the Texas Legislature is still nearly a year away, preliminary indications are that employee pensions and how best to maintain the long term fiscal soundness of the Employee Retirement System (ERS) may once again be a subject on the Legislature's agenda.
It's been less than a year since the Legislature enacted legislation designed to reduce the unfunded liability of the pension funds through a combination of increased contributions and benefit changes for new employees. While those actions have positively impacted the pension funds, recent presentations to the ERS Board of Trustees said continued growth in the unfunded liability balance is the result of investment losses and long-term and continued underfunding. Investment returns from the ERS funds have actually exceeded expectations in most years, but the losses during a few years of turmoil in the financial markets continue to have a negative impact.
It's unclear what specific options may be considered by the Legislature, and those alternatives could vary depending on whether the goal is to eliminate unfunded liability within 31 years (a standard measure for actuarial soundness) or simply impact the date on which ERS funds might be depleted (projected at 2052 based on current assumptions). The ERS Board of Trustees was advised the ultimate solution will most likely require a combination of actions. Any increase in contributions could come from employees, the state or a combination of the two.
While not a solution to the fiscal challenges facing ERS, one idea that may be explored as a means of facilitating solutions involves creating separate retirement funds for employees in hazardous duty and longevity positions.
TDCJ Executive Director Brad Livingston said he was confident that if necessary, the Texas Legislature would address any long term issues facing ERS. He also emphasized how supportive legislators were during the last session, and predicted continued support for employees in the upcoming session.
"Legislators were concerned with how possible changes would impact all state employees and the TDCJ workforce in particular," said Livingston. "They recognized the contributions of TDCJ employees and will keep your best interests in mind as they consider any proposal impacting the retirement system. Ensuring a sound pension program while mitigating the impact on existing employees will remain a high priority."
The Connections newsletter will provide additional updates from any future meetings of the ERS Board of Trustees.
The State Employee Charitable Campaign (SECC) marked its 20th year of fundraising in 2013.Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) staff donated a total of $892,493 to the 2013 fundraiser, with the majority of the donations - $533,578 - made through payroll deductions.
Commenting on the 2013 fundraising campaign, TDCJ SECC Coordinator Carie Beaty noted, "Once again, TDCJ employees proved to be extremely generous, working to support another successful statewide fund-raising campaign. It is a privilege to work with those that give so much of their time and energy to support the SECC. Their efforts continue to help those in need here in Texas, across the country and all over the world."
30 Years: Restoring the Balance of Justice
The 2014 National Crime Victims' Rights Week (NCVRW) takes place April 6 through 12, and this year's theme is "30 Years: Restoring the Balance of Justice." During NCVRW, crime victims, victim advocates, criminal justice professionals and community leaders promote victims' rights, honor crime victims and their advocates, and help provide resources to rebuild crime victims' lives.
This year during National Crime Victims' Rights Week, we celebrate the 30-year anniversary of the passage of historic legislation. In 1984 President Reagan signed into law the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) establishing the crime victims' fund made up of federal criminal fines, penalties, and bond forfeitures, to support state victim compensation and local victim assistance programs. In addition, the newly enacted Justice Assistance Act established a financial assistance program for state and local government and provided funding for 200 new victim service programs. The National Victims Resource Center was established, now named the Office for Victims of Crime Resource Center (OVCRC), to serve as a clearinghouse for victim related publications and other resources. For the last three decades, these and many other 1984 milestones have paved the way for restoring the balance of justice for crime victims.
Funding of crime victims' compensation and victim assistance programs through VOCA has allowed families who are touched by violent crime to receive necessary resources and services. TDCJ Victim Services Division Director Angie McCown commented on the long-term dedication of crime victims and their advocates, saying, "As we mark this year's historic National Crime Victims' Rights Week and its theme, 30 Years: Restoring the Balance of Justice, let us continue to look forward, identifying the challenges ahead in the journey to bring justice to crime victims."
Visit the online Texas Victim Assistance Training calendar to search, view or submit NCVRW events in your area. Typical activities include community walks and runs, education programs, art displays and a variety of recognition ceremonies. For more information about National Crime Victims' Rights Week, contact the Texas Crime Victim Clearinghouse at 800-848-4284, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sam Houston State University's (SHSU) College of Criminal Justice, in partnership with the Correctional Management Institute of Texas (CMIT), will award scholarships to two Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) employees nominated by the agency and accepted into the SHSU Master of Science in Criminal Justice Leadership and Management Weekend Program.
The scholarships will cover tuition to SHSU's degree program. Scholarship recipients will be responsible for books, fees and any other expenses. Details about the SHSU Master of Science in Criminal Justice Leadership and Management Weekend Program can be found at www.cjcenter.org. SHSU admission requirements and TDCJ criteria for nomination are on the agency website and can be found in the Human Resources Division's Links of Interest at Scholarship Opportunity for TDCJ Employees.
To qualify for consideration, applicants must be currently employed with TDCJ and have at least five years agency experience, to include some experience in a supervisory role, and possess an undergraduate degree from an accredited institution in criminal justice or an allied field. Scholarship paperwork that must be submitted includes, but is not limited to, official transcripts of previous academic work, two letters of recommendation, a completed College of Criminal Justice Master of Science Program Applicant Questionnaire and a personal essay outlining career background and goals. International students are required to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL).
Scholarship paperwork must be submitted to Patty Garcia, Human Resources Director, 2 Financial Plaza, Suite 600, Huntsville, Texas 77340 no later than, or postmarked by, 5:00 p.m. Tuesday, April 1, 2014.
Interested scholarship applicants must also ensure they have completed the admissions process through the SHSU Office of Graduate Admissions, PO Box 2478, Huntsville, Texas 77341-2478 no later than May 1, 2014.