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An employee publication of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice
July/August 2015

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Offender grooming policy change effective August 1

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In response to a recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, offenders housed in TDCJ facilities will be allowed to grow a beard for religious purposes.

Historically, TDCJ's offender grooming policy required offenders remain beardless to allow for quick and accurate visual identification, to prevent them from quickly and easily changing their appearance by shaving and to provide one less place to conceal contraband. However, the Court's decision in Holt v. Hobbs indicates that prohibiting an offender to grow a one-half inch beard would violate the offender's religious rights under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. The RLUIPA, enacted by Congress in 2000, prohibits the imposition of burdens on the ability of prisoners to worship as they please, and defines the term "religious exercise" to include "any exercise of religion, whether or not compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief."

The agency has composed a new offender grooming policy designed to preserve operational security while complying with the law. The new policy became effective August 1.

"Obviously we believe there were valid security reasons for the agency's prohibition on beards," said Robert Eason, deputy director of Prison and Jail Operations for TDCJ's Correctional Institutions Division. "However, we also believe that we have devised a policy that appropriately balances the right to wear beards for religious reasons with the necessity of maintaining security in the correctional setting."

Offenders may submit a request to grow a one-half inch beard. Approximately 30 days after the request has been approved, a new identification photograph will be taken. In addition, offenders will be required to shave annually for a clean-shaven identification photograph.

Offenders with a history of escape attempts may not be eligible to grow a religious beard, and offenders who attempt to conceal contraband in their beards may lose their eligibility. Offenders who refuse to comply with grooming standards will remain subject to disciplinary action.

Any costs associated with implementing the changes to the grooming policy will be paid through revenues received from the offender commissaries.

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Information Security: Don't fall for the social engineering scam

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In the world of information security, social engineering refers to a type of confidence trick where cybercriminals use deception to get computer users to bypass security procedures and programs, resulting in the loss or theft of confidential data. Avoid becoming another victim by learning how to recognize social engineers and their bag of cybercriminal tricks.

Everyone who uses a computer connected to the Internet should beware of the following social engineering hazards.


Password insecurity


A password on a sticky note stuck to your monitor is a convenient reminder when logging in; it also reveals your password to everyone who passes by. Never give your login credentials to anyone, even a trusted coworker. An angry colleague or other disgruntled employee might delete your files or use your name and email account to send forged correspondence to anyone, including your supervisors, and TDCJ employees are responsible for any actions performed using their login information. Keep this information secret and do not share it with anyone, even a friendly coworker.

The Information Technology Department's Computer Help Desk has administrative login credentials which allow them to do their work; if they ask if you know your password, tell them yes or no, but do not give them your password. They are only making sure that you will be able to login on your own after the help call has ended. If they need your password, they will specifically ask for it. Always change your password immediately after your computer problem has been resolved.


Tech support scams


Tech support scams involve unsolicited phone calls or computer pop-ups posing as a trusted source for computer help. Victims are told that their computer is at risk or is infected with malware, and that only the caller can fix the problem. If the victim turns control of their computer over to the scammer, they can install malware, steal confidential information or even lock up the computer and demand a ransom be paid in order to regain access to your own data. If someone contacts you on the phone or via the Web, always verify their identity through an independent source; do not use the contact information they provide.

If you think you've been victimized by a social engineer while at work and may have accidentally created a security breach, report it immediately to your supervisor and the TDCJ Information Security Officer at (936) 437-1800 so network administrators can be placed on alert for any suspicious activity involving your account.


Information oversharing


Seemingly harmless information found online at various sources can be gathered by an industrious social engineer to steal your identity. Family and pet names are common security questions used to confirm user identities. Even an innocent-looking short survey might give away personally identifiable information like your name, date of birth and home address; knowing this, a social engineer can create a false identity which they can hide behind while committing other crimes.

Oversharing information can make you a target for "pretexting," a con where scammers gather personal information and use it to create a detailed, seemingly legitimate scenario in the mind of the targeted victim. Vacation photos and information posted to social websites can be used to trick friends and family into sending money overseas; scammers monitor these websites to see when and where people are traveling, then contact the family members claiming that there’s been an emergency and money needs to be sent immediately. The information users post online is used to convince others that the situation is real and the caller is trustworthy.

Before posting any personal information online, consider how it might be used by a cybercriminal. Remind your friends and family to use caution and don't be afraid to ask them to remove revealing information.

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Call toll-free to report waste, fraud and abuse of TDCJ resources

Waste, fraud and abuse of state resources cost all taxpayers millions of dollars each year

The Office of the Inspector General is dedicated to detecting, investigating and prosecuting reports of waste, fraud and abuse of state resources within all divisions of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

If you have any information regarding waste, fraud or abuse of state benefits, equipment, personnel or funds, please contact the Office of the Inspector General, Crime Stoppers or the State Auditor’s Office toll free.

Crime Stoppers 1-800-832-8477 Office of Inspector General 1-866-372-8329 State Auditor's Office 1-800-892-8348

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Offender grooming policy change effective August 1

Information Security: Don't fall for the social engineering scam

Call toll-free to report waste, fraud and abuse of TDCJ resources

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