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An employee publication of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice
January/February 2016
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Improved CO recruiting, retention leaves fewer vacancies

At the February meeting of the Texas Board or Criminal Justice in Austin, TDCJ Executive Director Brad Livingston described the agency's correctional officer staffing challenge as "one of the most persistent operational challenges that we've dealt with during the course of the last several years.” He went on to credit the employees of the agency’s Correctional Institutions Division (CID), saying, "Staff on our units, our wardens and their teams onsite, as well as (CID Director) Bill Stephens and his team, have done a tremendous job working overtime as needed, as well as managing the workload and staff schedules to make certain our units are functioning effectively, even units that are substantially short staffed."

Livingston also informed the board of recent progress regarding correctional officer staffing. The number of CO vacancies as of April 2015 stood at 3,703. By the end of January 2016, vacancies had dropped to 2,748, which equates to slightly more than a 25 percent decrease.


new TDCJ correctional officers being sworn in at ceremony held at the Texas Prison Museum.

CO training academy graduates recite the Correctional Professional's Oath during a graduation ceremony held at the Texas Prison Museum in Huntsville.

Director Livingston attributed the improved numbers to several factors, including approval of a pay raise for front line correctional and parole staff by state policymakers, legislative action to help ensure the stability of the state employee pension system, and the impact of falling prices on the oil industry. Livingston credited agency staff for their hard work, adding, "We have engaged in very extensive and far-reaching recruitment and retention activities, to include job fairs, a variety of new advertising media and seminars. I'm very proud of our Human Resources staff partnering with the Correctional Institutions Division to achieve the best possible results."

Subsequent to the board meeting, Human Resources Director Patty Garcia and Correctional Institutions Division Director Bill Stephens discussed correctional officer recruitment and retention. They cited the $4,000 recruitment bonuses offered to qualified officers who report to one of the bonus-eligible units and sign a contract agreeing to work at the understaffed unit for a minimum of one year. The recruiting bonus program is available to full-time correctional officers who are newly hired and graduate from the academy; TDCJ retirees who rehired as full-time correctional officers after 90 calendar days of retirement from TDCJ; or former TDCJ employees rehired as full-time correctional officers after one year of separation from TDCJ.

Staffing rates can also be affected by a lack of available correctional officer housing, and the agency has worked with several local communities to increase affordable housing options. The agency has made low cost travel trailer space rentals available, and additional dormitory style housing has been made available for correctional officers in the Beeville area.

In addition to the agency's six regional training academies there are 25 unit-based training sites, 13 of which offer a combination of both pre-service and in-service training, to help minimize CO travel demands. Special and accelerated pre-service classes have also contributed to the recruiting efforts.

To further improve officer performance and retention, the Correctional Institutions Division's Department of Correctional Training and Staff Development continues to enhance correctional officer training. Most recently, CID increased Phase I pre-service training from 216 to 240 hours to incorporate additional training regarding mentally ill offenders and crisis intervention. To ensure that the issues and concerns of new officers and newly promoted first line security supervisors are understood and addressed, interviews are conducted 90 days after they complete their on-the-job training. Questions cover the agency's hiring, training and mentoring process, and other work conditions. After review, the unit warden then meets individually with each new officer to answer their questions.

"TDCJ was already aggressively recruiting new correctional officers when the 84th Legislature approved a 10.5 percent pay raise for all uniformed staff," said Patty Garcia, TDCJ’s Human Resources Director. "With the assistance of the governor and the legislature, the agency's correctional officer staffing rate has steadily increased since last spring."

Correctional Institutions Division Director Bill Stephens added, "Few people have a more difficult job than the officers who work in correctional facilities. The emotional and physical demands of the prison work environment make recruitment and retention of the best criminal justice professionals a difficult, but critical step toward achieving the agency's mission. We have positive momentum going in regards to recruiting and retaining staff. It is anticipated that, as we continue to collaborate with all agency partners, the vacancies will continue to decrease. I appreciate the efforts of everyone involved."

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National Crime Victims' Rights Week is April 10 to 16

National Crime Victims' Rights Week 2016 poster: Serving Victims, Building Trust, Restoring Hope

During the 2016 National Crime Victims' Rights Week, which runs from April 10 to 16, crime victims and their advocates across the nation will be recognized for their work in support of crime victims’ rights. This year's theme of "Serving Victims. Building Trust. Restoring Hope." highlights the role early and effective victim services intervention plays in establishing trust which, in turn, restores hope for healing.

"National Crime Victims' Rights Week gives us an opportunity to honor crime victims for the progress they've made toward recovery, as well as those who provide critical victim support services," said Victim Services Director Angie McCown. "Though their work is officially recognized for one week in April, every day of the year, all year long, victims and their advocates work to overcome the damage done by criminal violence. The criminal justice professionals in TDCJ's Victim Services Division are proud of their work in fulfillment of the agency's mission to assist victims of crime."

The first crime victims' rights week was organized in 1975 by the Philadelphia district attorney's office. Six years later, President Reagan established National Crime Victims' Rights Week as an annual event. Since its inception, NCVRW organizers have worked to protect and improve the rights and resources crime victims need to rebuild their lives. In 1984 the Victims of Crime Act was signed into law, helping to establish a funding source for victims' compensation through criminal fines, penalties and forfeitures, and VOCA funding for victim assistance programs has helped provide critical services to those who have suffered the effects of violent crime.

In May 1993, TDCJ established a Victim Services section in the Parole Division in order to notify crime victims about their offender's status in regards to the parole process. In 1997, the agency's mission statement was amended to include "to assist victims of crime" and the Victim Services section was elevated to divisional status.

This year's NCVRW Theme Video highlights how serving victims and building trust restores hope and strengthens communities. Visit the online Texas Victim Assistance training calendar to submit an NCVRW event in your area, and check back in April when county-submitted events will be posted. You can also contact the victim assistance coordinator at your local prosecutor's office for information about NCVRW activities, which typically include recognition ceremonies, community walks and runs, education programs and art displays. The National Crime Victims’ Service Awards Ceremony will be held on April 12 in Washington, DC.

For more information, go to the NCVRW resource guide, or contact the Texas Crime Victim Clearinghouse by calling 800-848-4284 or writing to tdcj.clearinghouse@tdcj.texas.gov.

 

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SHSU scholarship opportunity for TDCJ employees

Graphic art showing figure wearing graduation cap, holding a diploma, standing next to a stack of books

Sam Houston State University's College of Criminal Justice, in partnership with the Correctional Management Institute of Texas, will award two scholarships to TDCJ employees nominated by the agency and accepted into the SHSU Master of Science in Criminal Justice Leadership and Management Weekend program. The scholarships pay tuition only; recipients are responsible for books, fees and other costs.

Scholarship applicants must be current TDCJ employees with at least five years' experience. TDCJ criteria for the nominations include, but are not limited to, demonstrated agency supervisory experience and a record of outstanding performance as reflected in a current job performance evaluation.

SHSU admission requirements include, but are not limited to, an undergraduate degree in criminal justice or an allied field from an accredited institution, official transcripts of all previous academic work, and an acceptable undergraduate degree GPA. In some cases, a Graduate Record Examinations score may be required and international students must achieve a satisfactory score on the Test of English as a Foreign Language.

Applicants must also submit a completed College of Criminal Justice Master of Science Program Applicant Questionnaire and two letters of recommendation, with at least one letter from the applicant's employing agency, indicating awareness of the time commitment involved over the next two-year period, and willingness to enable the employee to keep his or her weekend commitments. Applicants are also required to write a personal essay outlining their career background and goals.

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.

Continued financial support is contingent on recipients maintaining at least a 3.3 grade point average and completing the degree program in two years. At least two classes must be completed each semester as required by the Master of Science in Criminal Justice Leadership and Management curriculum.

You can learn more about the SHSU Master of Science in Criminal Justice Leadership and Management Weekend program by visiting the university’s College of Criminal Justice website (www.cjcenter.org), calling at (936) 294-3637, or sending an email to icc_dcp@shsu.edu.

All scholarship paperwork must be submitted to TDCJ Human Resources Division Director Patty Garcia no later than, or postmarked by, Friday, April 8, 2016, at 5:00 p.m. Patty Garcia's office is in the Human Resources Headquarters building, located in the West Hill Mall. The mailing and physical address is 2 Financial Plaza, Suite 600, Huntsville, Texas 77340. For more information, contact the TDCJ Human Resources Division at (936) 437-4088.

 

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Improved CO recruiting, retention leaves fewer vacancies

National Crime Victims' Rights Week is April 10 to 16

SHSU scholarship opportunity for TDCJ employees

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