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Most state employees will receive a 1 percent salary increase in fiscal year (FY) 2014, with a $50 monthly minimum, followed by a 2 percent increase in FY 2015, also with a $50 monthly minimum. TDCJ's uniformed security staff will receive a 5 percent pay raise effective the first year of the biennium, and licensed peace officers employed by the Office of Inspector General will also receive a salary adjustment effective September 1.
For current state employees, most existing retirement provisions remain unchanged, though there will be a slight increase in both state and employee contributions to ensure the fiscal health of the Employees Retirement System (ERS) retirement fund; details can be found on the ERS legislative webpage. The TDCJ website provides a summary of the new retirement provisions, along with a detailed overview of how the general appropriations bill will impact the agency.
The new retirement provisions will apply to new state employees hired on or after September 1. Current employees will be unaffected by these changes, though the retiree health insurance provisions may impact a small number of agency employees.
Beginning in September, all Texas Employees Group Benefits Program (GBP) health insurance plan members must certify their status as tobacco users or nonusers. GBP members who have not certified their tobacco-use status will be charged a monthly tobacco-user premium to include any dependents over 18, even if they don't use tobacco. Tobacco users who don't certify their status risk a penalty, fraud investigation or termination from the GPB health plans.
If you are certified as non-user and start using tobacco, you must immediately update your tobacco-use status, and the same must be done for any dependents. The additional premium will start at the first of the month following the certification.
You can certify your tobacco-use status by signing into your Employees Retirement System (ERS) account at www.ers.state.tx.us. Click on the Tobacco User Certification link under the My Insurance Information tab and follow the instructions.
You can also certify your tobacco-use status by contacting your unit or department human resources representative, or calling ERS toll-free at 866-399-6908.
Other changes to state health care benefits include:
The 19th annual State Employee Charitable Campaign (SECC) runs from September to the end of October, and participation is open to all state and higher education employees. In 2012, more than $9 million was contributed by nearly 55,000 employees, with Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) staff donating more than $900,000 of those dollars.
The SECC represents a variety of charities, and donors can choose which ones will receive their contribution. Many worthy causes benefit from the campaign, and participating entities range from small local charities to large and well-known national and international nonprofit organizations. Commenting on TDCJ's long record of successful SECC fundraising drives, agency campaign coordinator Carie Beaty noted that "Funds raised by generous TDCJ employees are instrumental in keeping many nonprofit organizations active."
Charities that wish to participate must meet stringent legal requirements to make sure they are recognized by the IRS as 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations and registered with the Secretary of State. Approved SECC charities undergo yearly audits and reviews to ensure they provide direct or indirect health and human services, and they spend no more than 25 percent of funds raised on administration and fundraising, unless they qualify for a special exception.
Contributing through payroll deduction spreads out your giving over a year and provides regular contributions necessary to sustain charitable organizations. Regular payroll deductions allow you to maximize the positive effect of your contribution while monitoring the amount and timing of your donations, and you can end your payroll donation at any time. Cash and check giving is also accepted and, like payroll deductions, can be directed toward your favorite causes.
To learn more about the SECC and which charities it represents, visit the SECC website. A calendar of planned TDCJ fundraisers, as well as instructions on submitting a fundraising event, can be accessed on the agency website.
Participation in the SECC program is completely voluntary.
|Brad Livingston Executive Director|
In June, the Texas Public Employees Association (TPEA) honored Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) Executive Director Brad Livingston, Texas Department of Transportation Director Phil Wilson and State Senator Tommy Williams (R-The Woodlands), for their successful efforts to ensure fair treatment for state employees, as well as their skilled management of some of the largest state agencies in Texas. The awards were presented during the TPEA Annual Delegates Meeting held in Austin.
"These leaders addressed the funding deficiencies in the state pension plan and in state employee salaries, which have remained stagnant for five years," said TPEA Executive Director Gary Anderson. "Making the Employees Retirement System pension actuarially sound is critical - not only for future retirees but also for current retirees to receive any future increase in annuities." Anderson added, "In the end, our state leaders, particularly our honorees, showed commitment to preserving our government's infrastructure that is our state workforce."
Livingston was recognized as Agency Administrator of the Year for the third time.
In August of this year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicted an above normal, and possibly very active, 2013 Atlantic hurricane season. This year's season has already produced four named storms, and the peak of the season, from mid-August through October, has arrived. "Our confidence for an above-normal season is still high because the predicted atmospheric and oceanic conditions that are favorable for storm development have materialized," said Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA's Climate Prediction Center, a division of the National Weather Service. "Also, two of the four named storms to-date formed in the deep tropical Atlantic, which historically is an indicator of an active season," he added. NOAA's updated outlook calls for a 70 percent chance of an above-normal season.
In order to prepare for hurricanes and other weather emergencies, TDCJ's Office of Incident Management (OIM), in coordination with the Correctional Institutions Division and other agency divisions, oversees the agency's emergency preparedness and response activities. Although the agency's success in responding to hurricanes and other severe weather events is primarily attributable to the dedicated front line employees who meet the challenge, adequate planning is important.
OIM trains agency staff on their response roles during emergencies and coordinates with groups throughout the agency to develop and update emergency response and continuity of operations plans. OIM also oversees some transport activities for the State Emergency Management Plan, which includes preparation and direction of a wide variety of transportation assets during emergencies. OIM also oversees all mitigation reports and activities for the agency; works to identify potential hazards and threats to the agency; and develops mapping, modeling, and forecasting tools to lessen their effects.
OIM and representatives of various divisions and departments coordinate an agency-wide response that involves everything from the evacuation of offenders to the delivery of provisions to affected facilities. In the event of an approaching hurricane or tropical storm, OIM is responsible for monitoring its movements and keeping senior agency staff apprised of its strength and where it might make landfall. Even with the storm still days away, if TDCJ operations might be threatened, central command staff convenes in Huntsville where response plans for the specific, current storm begins. Throughout the state of emergency, OIM sends information to senior managers and works to control the flow of the command staff.
OIM's responsibilities don't end with the passing of the storm; the office coordinates with the Business and Finance Division in seeking reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for storm-related costs incurred by TDCJ, costs which can run into the millions of dollars.
During the last ten years, a number of hurricanes have struck the Texas Gulf Coast or shoreline to the north or south of Texas. Although several significantly impacted agency operations, public safety and the safety of the offender population were maintained through effective preparation and the extraordinary efforts of the dedicated men and women who serve the state of Texas as employees of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. While the OIM and Emergency Command Center coordinate TDCJ's emergency response, it is front line staff that evacuates thousands of offenders, delivers emergency provisions like food and fuel, maintains security and supervision and successfully meets other logistical challenges. Despite the obstacles nature throws in their way, the employees of TDCJ rise to the occasion and ensure the agency's vital public safety mission is achieved.
Planning ahead for sudden changes in the path of a hurricane proved critical in 2005 when Hurricane Rita was predicted to strike along the southern Gulf coast, leading to the evacuation of two state-operated prison facilities in Edinburg and the movement of all offenders from a privately-operated state jail in Raymondville a full 84 hours before the storm winds were expected to begin blowing along the coast. The hurricane made an unexpected last-minute shift to the north and made landfall near the Texas-Louisiana border. Within 15 hours, the orderly and secure relocation of more than 3,300 offenders and staff to safe facilities inland was complete. Hundreds of Texas Youth Commission offenders, TDCJ parolees and special needs offenders were also moved out of harm's way without incident.
TDCJ staff maintained public safety throughout Rita and its aftermath despite being personally impacted by the hurricane. At one point in the days following Rita, more than 350 displaced agency employees were staying in a shelter set up in an empty Texas Youth Commission facility adjacent to the three TDCJ units in Beaumont. Initially, a number of employees had been made virtual prisoners of the storm because they either couldn't get home from their duty posts or no longer had a place to go back to that was livable. Because gasoline was in short supply in the days immediately following the storm, volunteer bus drivers from the local school district drove TDCJ employees to and from work for two weeks. Wardens in affected units arranged for the American Red Cross and FEMA representatives to assist their employees. Post-trauma counseling was also made available.
In the years since Rita, TDCJ has continued to hone its hurricane response capabilities, first creating an Incident Manager position to oversee the agency's response activities, and then regularly staging emergency drills for both central and regional command staff members, focusing on improving communications between command staff and responders in the field.
The summer of 2008 brought three hurricanes and a tropical storm along the Texas Gulf Coast. In a span of three months, Hurricane Dolly, Tropical Storm Edouard, Hurricane Gustav and Hurricane Ike severely tested TDCJ's response capabilities when they struck agency facilities from Brownsville to Beaumont. The latter caused serious damage, but with careful planning and the efficient execution of the agency's disaster plan by thousands of agency employees, critical public safety functions were maintained.
In July, Hurricane Dolly caused power outages and some damage to private and state-operated prison facilities. Fortunately, Dolly weakened before making landfall in South Padre Island, but even this "weak" storm caused more than a billion dollars worth of damage in Texas.
In August, the agency evacuated more than 3,200 offenders from two Beaumont-area facilities in anticipation of Hurricane Gustav making landfall along the upper Texas coast. Prior to the hurricane's eventual landfall in southwestern Louisiana, TDCJ bused thousands of offenders from coastal units to eight different inland prisons. TDCJ also moved hundreds of halfway house offenders, high-risk parolees and Texas Youth Commission (TYC) offenders to secure facilities inland. The evacuation required the use of more than 80 TDCJ buses and was completed without incident. All evacuated offenders were returned to the units of assignment within two days of the storm's landfall. No injuries or significant damage was reported.
Several TDCJ facilities were in the eye of the storm when Ike roared ashore in September. In all, approximately 85 buses were used to move nearly 7,000 offenders and parolees out of harm's way, making it the largest evacuation carried out by TDCJ since Hurricane Rita in 2005.
One facility in particular, Hospital Galveston, felt the full affect of hurricane Ike. Fortunately, the hospital was built to withstand strong storms and the 110 mph wind speeds of the Category 2 hurricane. Unfortunately, the hospital did sustain significant flood damage to nearly every building on campus. Some education programs were restarted within a matter of weeks, but many hospital services were unavailable for months. While the facility was being repaired, the agency contracted with other hospitals for needed medical services.
Power and phone service were cut to TDCJ units and parole offices throughout the region, including Huntsville, where the agency's central command center had to be relocated because of downed phone lines. The Parole division's district office in Galveston was damaged beyond repair and three parole offices in Houston were severely damaged. In all, 41 TDCJ facilities were without power and running on generators immediately following the storm. Structural damage to prison facilities, however, was minor to moderate and no serious injuries were reported among offenders or staff.
Everyone in your family should be made aware of what to do in the event of a hurricane. Typically, the best plan of action is to evacuate if instructed to do so by authorities. "Run from water and hide from wind" is a good rule of thumb to keep in mind with hurricanes. Storm surge and flooding are typically a much larger threat than wind during these storms. Even smaller category hurricanes can cause large storm surges. For this reason, it's important to have evacuation plans in place and to take evacuation orders very seriously. Planning in advance for family and residence is even more important for public safety professionals who must continue providing critical services during weather conditions that will close most businesses and may require evacuation.
If you do not evacuate and must stay in place to ride out a hurricane, make sure you have a supply kit on hand. This kit should include several days' worth of drinkable water and nonperishable foods, any special foods for infants or the elderly, personal toiletries and medicines, blankets and pillows, a first aid kit, flashlight and batteries, fully-charged cell phones, and a battery-operated NOAA weather radio.
Texas is home to many stinging and biting insects and these insects are most abundant and active during the warm months of summer. Insect stings can result in anything from mild discomfort to a fatal reaction, so it's important to learn the risks associated with insect attack, how to prevent and protect yourself from stings and bites, and what to do when they occur.
In Texas, most serious sting attacks are caused by five types of insects: yellow jackets, honeybees, paper wasps, hornets and fire ants. Avoid contact with these insects whenever possible.
Yellow jackets are black with yellow markings and live in nests made out of a paper-like material. These nests are usually located underground, but can also be found in the walls of frame buildings, cracks in masonry or woodpiles.
Honeybees have a round, "fuzzy" body with dark brown coloring and yellow markings. They are nonaggressive and sting only when provoked. In contrast, Africanized honeybees, a hybrid of African and European bees, are extremely aggressive and often attack with little or no provocation. Africanized bees are present in Texas and typically build nests in building cavities, tree trunks, old tires or other protected locations.
Paper wasps have slender, elongated bodies and are typically black, brown or red with yellow markings. Wasp nests are made of paper-like material comprising a comb of cells that opens downward. They are often found hanging under eaves, behind shutters, and in shrubs or woodpiles.
Hornets are black or brown with white, orange or yellow markings similar to yellow jackets, but are much larger. Their nests are gray or brown, football-shaped, and are usually found high above ground on tree branches, in shrubs, on buildings or in tree hollows.
Fire ants are reddish-brown to black insects that nest in mounds of dirt on the ground. Fire ant nests can grow to be quite large, up to 18 inches tall in certain soils. Fire ants attack with little warning and in great numbers. Their sting causes an immediate burning sensation.
Avoid wearing perfume, cologne and brightly-colored clothing. Don't wear loose-fitting garments or open-toed shoes when working outdoors, as they can easily trap a stinging insect against your skin. The smell of food attracts insects, so keep your food covered when cooking, eating or drinking outside.
Insects are most likely to sting when their homes are disturbed, and this often occurs due to the sound and vibration of power equipment. Always avoid insects and their nests when using mowers, tractors, weed-trimmers, chainsaws or other motorized tools.
If you find insect nests in or near your workplace, have them removed or destroyed as soon as possible. Honeybees are very important to the environment, so it's best to have them moved rather than destroyed. Keep in mind that moving or eradicating a nest of stinging insects can be hazardous. Correctional units needing assistance with a bee or wasp situation should contact their safety officer. Texas Department of Criminal Justice offices should contact the Agribusiness, Land and Minerals Department at 936-437-5400 for help.
When an insect sting occurs:
Most sting reactions are mild, resulting in little more than an annoying itch or stinging sensation and swelling that lasts a day or two. Delayed reactions may cause symptoms such as fever, joint pain, hives or swollen glands.
Moderate allergic reactions include mild nausea and stomach cramps, diarrhea or swelling larger than two inches in diameter at the site. Sting victims with these symptoms should seek medical help. Any insect sting to the mucous membranes of the mouth, nose or throat should receive immediate medical attention, as swelling may block the victim's airway.
Severe reactions to insect stings may occur suddenly and progress rapidly. Call for emergency medical assistance immediately if the victim has difficulty breathing; hives, swelling of the mouth, lips or throat; fainting spells or confusion; or rapid heartbeat, nausea, stomach cramps or vomiting. For people who are allergic to insect venom, a simple sting may be a life-threatening event. Anyone who knows they are allergic should consider wearing a special bracelet or necklace that identifies their condition should they be unable to communicate.
For more safety information about stinging insect hazards, contact the TDCJ Administrative Review and Risk Management Division at 936-437-4839.
August 31 will mark the retirement of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice's (TDCJ) directors of Human Resources (HR) and Manufacturing and Logistics divisions.
HR Director Jan Thornton has worked for TDCJ for more than 28 years, serving 27 of those years with the Human Resources Division. She rose through a series of positions, to include secretary, section director, deputy division director and division director.
Congratulating Thornton on her career with the agency, Executive Director Brad Livingston said she has provided exceptional leadership to TDCJ during her tenure, describing her as a strong and talented leader who has been a key member of the agency's leadership team.
Director of Manufacturing and Logistics Division C.F. Hazlewood retires after serving more than 30 years with TDCJ, culminating with his most recent position as director of the Manufacturing and Logistics Division.
In recognition of his work, Executive Director Brad Livingston praised Hazlewood's exceptional leadership and strong operational oversight capabilities, noting that his commitment and dedication will have a positive and lasting impact on the agency.
In August, Jason Clark was named director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice's (TDCJ) Public Information Office (PIO), replacing John Hurt, who retired from state employment.
Clark possesses a bachelor's degree in Broadcast Journalism from Sam Houston State University and has more than 14 years experience in news and public information, having served as researcher, reporter, anchor, producer and bureau chief before joining TDCJ as a public information officer in 2006.
TDCJ Executive Director Brad Livingston cited Clark's extensive media experience when appointing him to this key leadership role.
In July, Robert 'Jay' Eason was selected as deputy director of Prison and Jail Operations for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice's (TDCJ) Correctional Institutions Division (CID).
Eason is a 24-year veteran of TDCJ. He began his career as a correctional officer at the Pack Unit in 1989 and promoted through the officer ranks, eventually serving as senior warden at both the Price Daniel Unit and the Robertson Unit. Most recently, Eason served as director of CID regions IV and II.
Congratulating Eason on his appointment, CID Director Bill Stephens noted, "During his tenure with the agency, Jay has demonstrated excellent leadership and a strong commitment to our mission."
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice's (TDCJ) Correctional Institutions Division (CID) has named Michael Upshaw deputy director for Support Operations effective August 1.
Upshaw has nearly 30 years experience with TDCJ, including unit operations, correctional training and, most recently, as CID's deputy director of Management Operations.
As deputy director of Support Operations, Mr. Upshaw will oversee the support function on all CID facilities. This department includes Classifications and Records; Counsel Substitute; Laundry, Food and Supply; Mail System Coordinators Panel; Offender Transportation; and Office for Disciplinary Coordination.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice's (TDCJ) Correctional Institutions Division (CID) has selected Kelvin Scott as director of CID Region II.
Scott received his Bachelor of Science degree in Corrections and Criminology from Sam Houston State University in 1991 and has more than 26 years of experience with TDCJ. He has worked in all six CID regions, with more than eight years experience as senior warden. Scott most recently served as senior warden at the Beto Unit in Tennessee Colony.
CID Director William Stephens commended Scott's selection, saying, "In addition to this large amount of experience, Kelvin brings strong leadership and commitment to the agency's mission."
Public Awareness - Corrections Today (PACT) is a free public information conference presented by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), and coordinated by the TDCJ Ombudsman Program. Created to enhance communication with outside stakeholders, this year's conference will bring together agency staff with offenders' family members, the general public, community leaders, jail and prison ministries, as well as criminal justice volunteers and advocates.
Scheduled for Saturday, October 5, from 8:30 a.m. until 4:00 p.m., the PACT Conference will be held at the Sam Houston State University's George J. Beto Criminal Justice Center in Huntsville. The agenda includes a general session welcoming attendees, followed by breakout sessions focusing on topics such as incarceration, rehabilitation, health care, parole and probation.
TDCJ staff will be available to provide both written information and to engage in face-to-face discussions about programs and services provided by the agency. There will also be an exhibit dedicated to the Giving Offenders' Kids Incentive and Direction to Succeed (GO KIDS) initiative, a program designed to identify and coordinate community resources to help the children of offenders who are under criminal justice supervision in Texas.