Executive director's legislative update
By Bryan Collier
The House and Senate versions of the general appropriations bill have been filed, and a brief summary of the proposed funding for TDCJ is available on the agency website. The bills as filed provide a good starting point for further discussion with the Senate Finance and House Appropriations committees regarding the agency's budget for the next two fiscal years.
When state policymakers asked agencies to submit an initial budget proposal for the fiscal years 2018-19 biennium showing the impact of a 4 percent budget reduction, the TDCJ included several cost savings proposals, along with a request to retain the balance of the funds. The 4 percent across-the-board reduction is not included in either bill, although the Senate version does include a 1.5 percent reduction. The agency will continue to seek funding for a number of "exceptional items" included in our Legislative Appropriations Request, to include the renovation and repair of aging facilities, and seek to maintain funds that would be impacted by an across-the-board reduction.
As of mid-February, there hasn't been much discussion regarding the closure of another correctional facility, but I anticipate this subject will soon receive serious consideration, and the closure of at least one if not more units is likely. Our efforts to assist staff displaced during previous unit closures have been very successful, and similar efforts will be made in the event another facility is closed.
Several thousand bills have been filed to date, and several thousand more will be filed before the deadline. There has been no legislation proposed that would impact employee benefits such as health insurance and the pension program. However, there has been some conversation regarding the need for additional cost-containment strategies to address the rising cost of health care for employees and those served by various programs such as Medicaid, and similar dialogue regarding cost-containment strategies for retirement benefits; we will continue to monitor these discussions. Senate Bill 485/House Bill 1421 would transfer ombudsman staff and some grievance staff to the Commission on Jail Standards, but otherwise no legislation has been filed that would significantly impact TDCJ employees.
It's still very early in the legislative process, so no decisions have been made regarding any appropriation or policy issue. We will use the agency website to keep you advised of any developments regarding the agency's budget or issues impacting employee salaries and benefits.
Governor Greg Abbott recently ordered a state agency hiring freeze which provides a few exceptions for certain TDCJ positions, to include uniformed security staff and their ranking officers, agricultural and industrial specialists, parole officers and OIG investigators. It is possible other positions might be exempted in the future. To the extent a hiring freeze makes anyone’s work more challenging, your contributions are appreciated even more. Every one of you helps this agency accomplish its vital public safety mission.
Thank you again for your efforts on behalf of all Texans. It is my honor serve as your executive director.
As this issue of Connections was being finalized, legislators preparing the state's budget for the FY 2018-19 biennium were considering closure of four TDCJ correctional facilities: the Ware Unit in Colorado City, the Bartlett State Jail, the Bridgeport Pre-Parole Transfer Facility and the West Texas Intermediate Sanction Facility in Brownfield. The Ware Unit is a state-operated facility located in close proximity to the Wallace Unit, also in Colorado City; the other three units are operated by private vendors.
Linthicum becomes ACA president at 2017 Winter Conference
In January, TDCJ Health Services Division Director Dr. Lannette Linthicum was sworn in as the 105th president of the American Correctional Association at the ACA 2017 Winter Conference held in San Antonio. As president, Dr. Linthicum will serve on the ACA Executive Committee to promote the association's goals and interests. Dr. Linthicum replaces Mary L. Livers who will complete her term by serving two years as immediate past-president. Dr. Linthicum has served the last two years as president-elect. This arrangement gives the incoming president time to gradually assume the new responsibilities of the position, serve as president, and then provide support for the next president.
Dr. Lannette Linthicum with TBCJ Chairman Dale Wainwright (left) and TDCJ Executive Director Bryan Collier at the ACA 2017 Winter Conference in San Antonio.
Dr. Linthicum commented on how her work history with TDCJ will benefit the ACA during her term as president, saying "My career at TDCJ has taught me the true meaning of public service and what it takes to be an outstanding public servant. I hope to emulate TDCJ's core values of perseverance, integrity, commitment and courage during my tenure as ACA president."
Regarding her upcoming term as ACA president, Linthicum said "My goal is to continue to foster the rich traditions of excellence, industry and innovation that have established the American Correctional Association as the premier correctional association in the nation."
TDCJ Executive Director Bryan Collier commended the selection, saying "Dr. Linthicum has served this agency with distinction for many years, and her public service has already been recognized by the Association." He continued, "She is a strong leader and is going to make an outstanding ACA president."
Texas Board of Criminal Justice Chairman Dale Wainwright recognized Dr. Linthicum's accomplishment at the February TBCJ meeting, saying "I'd like to praise Dr. Linthicum publically for her dedication and outstanding performance in criminal justice and as I've said before, I believe she is the foremost authority for health care in a correctional context in our nation."
Under her guidance and through her efforts, TDCJ's Health Services Division has earned an international reputation as a leader in delivering quality correctional healthcare. Dr. Linthicum currently oversees the delivery of medical care for nearly 147,000 male and female offenders at 108 facilities throughout Texas.
Dr. Linthicum's career in correctional medicine with TDCJ began in 1986, when the Maryland native became the health authority at the Huntsville Unit as a member of the National Health Service Corps. She held numerous positions before becoming the director of Health Services in January 1998, a position she currently holds. She earned a bachelor's degree from Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, and a medical degree from the University of Maryland School of Medicine. A certified internist by the American Board of Internal Medicine, Linthicum is also a Certified Correctional Health Professional - Advanced, and a fellow of the American College of Physicians.
Linthicum's work was recognized in 2007 when she received the ACA's Walter P. Dunbar Award, and again in 2011 with the ACA's E.R. Cass Achievement Award. Linthicum has served ACA in numerous capacities including: member of the American Correctional Association Program Planning Committee; Chair of the Commission on Accreditation for Corrections; Chair of the Commission on Accreditation Quality Assurance Task Force; Vice-Chair of the Standards Committee; Co-Chair for the Coalition of Correctional Health Authorities; Health Care Committee member; Treasurer; and President-Elect.
Dr. Linthicum has served as a senior editorial board member for Correctional Health Today, a peer-reviewed journal published by the ACA, has coauthored several papers on correctional medicine and was a founding member and first co-chair of the ACA's Coalition for Correctional Health Authorities. She spent four years as a task force member of the National Commission on Correctional Health Care Clinical Practice Guidelines Committee and a member of the Society of Correctional Physicians Board of Directors.
Founded in 1870 as the National Prison Association, the American Correctional Association is the oldest association for criminal justice professionals, and its Declaration of Principles serves as a guideline for socially responsible and humane correctional policies and practices in the United States. Today, the ACA and its thousands of members around the world work together improve the nation’s justice system through promotion of staff diversity, effective professional development and education, and a standards and accreditation process based on valid, reliable research and exemplary correctional practice. The ACA's standards are national benchmarks for secure and effective correctional, parole and training operations, as well as central administration.
TDCJ staff presentations at
2017 ACA Winter Conference
In January, the American Correctional Association held its 2017 Winter Conference in San Antonio. More than 90 workshops and panel presentations led by recognized experts in their fields, to include a number of TDCJ's senior staff, offered educational and networking opportunities for criminal justice professionals from around the nation.
Health Services director and newly appointed ACA President Dr. Lannette Linthicum described the agency's Baby and Mother Bonding Initiative (BAMBI), which provides eligible female offenders the opportunity to bond with their newborn baby, if the child was delivered during the course of their sentence. Linthicum told the assembled group "We want to break the cycle of incarceration that can plague a family. The BAMBI program helps address that need."
TDCJ Victim Services Division Director Angie McCown, along with other victim services experts from around the nation, spoke about the need to ensure that crime victims' voices are heard and addressed by the criminal justice system. McCown underscored the system's responsibility to crime victims, saying "It is important to remember that for every offender incarcerated for a violent crime there is at least one direct violent crime victim and many more secondary victims. We must all work together to meet the needs of those harmed by violent crime and to raise awareness of victims' statutory rights." The victim services panel explored and explained complex issues such as notification procedures, no-contact orders and the Victim Offender Mediation/Dialogue program.
Representatives from TDCJ's Reentry and Integration Division, Parole Division, Manufacturing, Agribusiness and Logistics Division, and the Windham School District led panel discussions explaining how the agency works to reduce recidivism by preparing offenders for successful reentry into the community. "Our goal is to have a seamless system that prepares and equips the offender for success upon return to the community. TDCJ has one of the lowest recidivism rates in the country," said April Zamora, director of the Reentry and Integration Division. "We want to continue to drive down that number."
Parole Division Director Pamela Thielke added "The offender's educational and vocational accomplishments are a reflection of the collaboration that happens across all agency divisions. Once released to parole supervision, parole officers continue to support the offender's success by discussing community resources and job opportunities."
Bobby Lumpkin, director of TDCJ's Manufacturing, Agribusiness and Logistics Division, pointed out that one of the biggest barriers for offenders is finding employment and explained how TDCJ helps offenders overcome that obstacle. "Offenders can learn a number of different trades and can leave TDCJ with a documented work history. Employers know they're getting someone who has received on-the-job training and is ready to start working immediately." Manufacturing, Agribusiness and Logistics and the Windham School District provide numerous programs which help releasing offenders secure post-release employment.
April Zamora and Carey Welebob, director of TDCJ's Community Justice Assistance Division, spoke to an ACA assembly about the benefits of the new Texas Risk Assessment System (TRAS), an offender-specific risk assessment tool. TRAS interprets an offender's criminal history and criminogenic needs, allowing criminal justice professionals to devise the most effective and efficient case plans possible. This enables the agency to carefully allocate supervision resources and, in turn, reduce offender recidivism rates and increase public safety.
ACA Winter Conference attendees saw two TDCJ correctional officers honored for their heroic actions following an offender-transport bus accident in Gustine, Texas on February 19, 2016. After the accident, both officers maintained custody of the offenders while providing assistance to emergency medical services and Department of Public Safety staff until additional TDCJ staff arrived. Only after all the offenders had been accounted for and transported from the accident scene did officers Terry Kilpatrick (left) and Billy Faries seek medical attention for their injuries. Correctional Institutions Division Director Lorie Davis praised both officers, saying "Their actions were nothing short of heroic. These officers never lost sight of the agency's mission nor their commitment to it. I could not be prouder of them."
National Crime Victims' Rights Week
is April 2 to 8
Every year in April, the National Crime Victims' Rights Week initiative promotes victims' rights and honors crime victims and those who advocate on their behalf. The theme of the 2017 NCVRW, which will take place from April 2 to 8, is "Strength. Resilience. Justice."
"National Crime Victims' Rights Week gives us an opportunity to honor victims of violent crime and those individuals who work tirelessly to assist them," said Victim Services Director Angie McCown. This year's theme focuses on building the strength and resiliency in communities necessary to support victims of violent crime. "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 repair some the harm caused 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 took place in 1975 in Philadelphia and six years later President Reagan established the annual National Crime Victims' Rights Week. NCVRW organizers work to protect and improve the rights and resources needed by crime victims to rebuild their lives. Since 1984 the Victims of Crime Act provided a source of funding for victims' compensation through criminal fines, penalties and forfeitures, and VOCA funding has helped provide critical services to those who have suffered the effects of violent crime.
In 1993, TDCJ established a Victim Services section in the agency's 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.
Visit the online Texas Victim Assistance training calendar to submit an NCVRW event in your area, and check back as new events are posted. You may 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 7 in Washington, D.C.
For more information, go to the NCVRW website or contact the Texas Crime Victim Clearinghouse by calling 800-848-4284 or writing to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Legislative Budget Board reports on population growth, recidivism,
The Legislative Budget Board recently released three reports relating to the Texas criminal justice system. The reports are available on the LBB website.
According to the LBB's Adult and Juvenile Correctional Population Projections, the number of adult offenders who are incarcerated or on supervision for felony offenses will remain relatively stable during the next five fiscal years, while the number of misdemeanor offenders placed on community supervision is expected to continue decreasing slightly.
The Statewide Criminal and Juvenile Justice Recidivism and Revocation Rates report shows the recidivism rate for prison offenders continued to decline; currently, 21 percent of the offenders are re-incarcerated within three years of release, while the state jail recidivism rate increased slightly, with 32.2 percent being re-incarcerated within three years of release. The state jail population consists almost entirely of low-level property and drug offenders who are more likely to recidivate. Based on this agency's review of nationwide recidivism rates, the Texas prison recidivism rate remains one of the lowest, if not the lowest, in the nation.
The Criminal and Juvenile Justice Uniform Cost Report shows the average cost-per-day to incarcerate a prison offender increased to $61.63 during fiscal year 2016. Pay raises for correctional staff, increasing health care costs and a decreasing offender population are among the cost drivers affecting this average. The average daily cost to supervise offenders on parole and probation also increased, but remained well below the cost of incarceration.
RID hosts job fair for
Reginald Reedy speaks with Sharon Albert, department manager for the Manufacturing, Agribusiness and Logistics Division’s Offender Work and Training Program. The program aims to help parolees like Reedy find a job once released. Ms. Albert was on-hand at a recent job fair in Tarrant County and was able to provide Mr. Reedy with documentation listing the work experience and licenses he obtained while incarcerated. By having this information and providing it to potential employers, ex-offenders are more likely to be offered employment.
Held in Fort Worth on February 21, the job fair was a collaborative effort by TDCJ's Reentry and Integration Division, the Cornerstone Assistance Network, the Tarrant County Reentry Coalition, and the Reentry First-Stop Center for Tarrant County. More than 80 ex-offenders attended the job fair and 30 received job offers on the spot.
ERS Board of Trustees election voting begins March 10
Before August 31 of each odd-numbered year, the ERS Board of Trustees is required by law to hold an election to nominate and elect a trustee. This year, one employee member will be elected by state employees and retirees to serve as their member advocate. Voting begins Friday, March 10 and continues through Friday, April 14 using one of three options; the ERS website, direct email, or the paper ballot you received in the mail. If you are an ERS member as of January 31, 2017, or if you are a retired state employee receiving an annuity from ERS, you are eligible to vote.
The Employees Retirement System of Texas administers a benefits package which includes retirement benefits, health and other insurance benefits, the Texa$aver 401(k) and 457 investment account programs and the TexFlex program. Members of the ERS Board make key decisions regarding these programs and also serve as trustees for the ERS Retirement Trust Fund, which pays retirees' annuities from employee and state contributions and investment earnings.
Candidates for the position include TDCJ Parole Division Region II Director Jackie A. Dickerson, Chief Auditor Catherine A. Melvin from the Texas Department of Public Safety, Morgen Ashley Cuming, a staff attorney with the Texas Board of Professional Engineers, and Chief Audit and Compliance Officer Benito Ybarra with the Texas Department of Transportation.
A recording of the March 9 candidate forum will be available on the ERS website throughout the voting period.
2017 Election Calendar
||Board of Trustees
member term begins