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Brad Livingston, Executive Director
Citing concerns with several requirements affecting state prisons and local jails, Governor Rick Perry recently did not certify Texas' compliance with national standards governing sexual assault in correctional facilities. One issue identified by the Governor, limitations on cross-gender supervision of offenders by correctional staff, would have a significant operational impact on the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ). Approximately 40 percent of TDCJ correctional officers are female, and their ability to provide security in male institutions would be compromised by restrictions designed to enhance offender privacy.
While there is disagreement regarding a few standards, the intent of the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) standards, to prevent in-prison sexual assault and other forms of sexual abuse, reflects a nationwide consensus shared by Texas policymakers and agency officials. In announcing his decision, Governor Perry was adamant that sexual assault in correctional facilities is unacceptable and that all reasonable steps must be taken to prevent it. Governor Perry, the Texas Legislature, the Board of Criminal Justice, the Office of Inspector General, the PREA ombudsman and this agency all remain absolutely committed to a zero-tolerance policy. The state's commitment predates the enactment of PREA legislation and continues irrespective of any national standards.
Although the federal standards may not be binding upon Texas, the vast majority of PREA standards reflect sound correctional practices that were already incorporated in TDCJ's policies and procedures. The agency has also modified certain policies or procedures in response to those standards, and continues to revise others. Regrettably, the standard relating to cross-gender supervision cannot be implemented without negatively impacting the safety of both staff and offenders.
Your continued efforts to enforce the agency's zero-tolerance policy relating to sexual assault and sexual abuse are deeply appreciated. Thank you for your public service.
Offenders released from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) face many barriers as they reestablish themselves in the community. Securing a job and a place to stay can prove insurmountable to a newly released offender. To make that transition easier, the TDCJ Reentry and Integration Division (RID) has begun securing state-issued identification cards for offenders before they leave confinement.
Providing releasing offenders with state-issued identification is a collaborative effort between TDCJ, the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) and the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS). The goal is for every eligible offender to leave TDCJ incarceration with a valid birth certificate, a Social Security card and a state-issued identification card in hand.
"Historically, when an offender was released from prison, they would have to secure these documents themselves," explained RID Director April Zamora. It could take up to thirty days from release for an ex-offender to receive the documentation required to become employed. "When someone walks out of here with an identification card, it gives them immediate access to employment and housing. It's a huge advantage and another component to a successful reintegration."
Reentry case manager David Romero obtains an offender's photo and signature so he can be issued a state identification card upon release.
With the proper personal information and family history, Social Security cards can be obtained through the Social Security Administration and birth certificates through the Texas DSHS office. With these documents in hand, DPS can issue a state ID card. All costs are paid by TDCJ through general revenue funding. Applying early for these documents ensures plenty of time to resubmit the application if information is missing or incorrect. The program is voluntary and offenders will occasionally decline help, usually because they believe family members already have these documents at home. In these instances, case mangers can contact family in order to secure copies for the offender's use.
The collaboration between TDCJ and DPS to issue offenders' state identification cards will involve every case manager office being equipped with a DPS-style camera and special computer hardware and software. Soon, 139 CID and Parole offices will be properly equipped and able to process IDs for eligible offenders. To be eligible to receive an ID card, offenders must be a Texas resident with no felony or Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainers.
The first prison offender to be issued an identification card was released on February 24 and more than 400 IDs have been processed for offenders who have been or are scheduled to be released through June 1. Plans are already being developed to reach other TDCJ offender populations, including those sentenced to Substance Abuse Felony Punishment Facility programs. Zamora explains, "These offenders are usually in these programs short term, from six to nine months, but are returning to the community on probation with the same needs as any other offender."
In fiscal year (FY) 2013, 21,795 Social Security cards and 9,975 birth certificates were processed for releasing offenders. The goal for FY 2014 is for 60,000 releasing offenders to depart with these two documents and a state-issued identification card.
Ensuring the successful reentry and reintegration of offenders has always been a vital part of TDCJ's mission and this program is just another tool designed to see that offenders are given every opportunity to thrive as a successful member of society. Speaking about the program, TDCJ Correctional Institutions Division Director Bill Stephens said, "The success of this program is a great accomplishment for all parties involved. By providing these documents to offenders, we remove a significant obstacle to reintegration."
The 2014 National Correctional Officers' Week will take place May 4 through 10. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the event and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) will hold recognition celebrations and memorial services in honor of the dedicated men and women who have accepted the responsibility and met the challenge of preserving public safety.
In addition to the events scheduled at individual units and offices throughout the agency, TDCJ will also hold a Fallen Officers' Memorial Ceremony in remembrance of those who lost their lives in the line of duty. This year's ceremony is scheduled for Thursday, May 8, and will be held on the grounds of the Texas Prison Museum in Huntsville. Executive Director Brad Livingston will be among the scheduled speakers at the service, scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. Coverage of the Memorial Ceremony will be included in the next issue of Connections.
For more information about National Correctional Officers' Week events in your area, contact your regional CID director's office.
Spring and summer mean the return of hot weather, and heat stress can be a serious threat to workplace safety. Prevention is always the best way to deal with heat-related safety issues, but when hot weather strikes, it's important to know proper response procedures in the event of heat-related injury or illness. TDCJ provides annual training to unit staff and offenders regarding the prevention, recognition and treatment of heat-related illness and once again urges staff to be alert for signs of heat stress in themselves and others.
As temperatures rise, so does the likelihood of illness and injury. Sweaty hands can cause your hands to slip and sweat in your eyes can obstruct your vision. Beware of surface heating hazards like asphalt and metal; don’t test their temperature by touch, it takes only a moment to get a contact burn. Sunburn is a common problem which can be avoided by using protective suntan lotion and dressing in lightweight, shade-producing clothing. A brimmed hat is a necessity for anyone working outside in the sun.
Our bodies can usually maintain a healthy temperature through blood circulation and perspiration, but both of these cooling mechanisms can be overwhelmed by very high temperatures and humidity. Heat stress can cause you to feel weak, nauseated and confused. If untreated, heat stress can easily lead to a serious medical emergency. Always be sure to drink lots of fluids, preferably water, and avoid caffeinated and sugary drinks.
Learn to recognize the signs of heat stress and be prepared to respond with quick treatment.
Exposure to heat and humidity is often unavoidable for agency staff and offenders, so it's important to minimize the impact of summer temperatures by drinking plenty of fluids, monitoring for warning signs of heat stress in yourself and others, and seeking immediate medical help should anyone show symptoms of heat-related illness.
In February, Oscar Mendoza, a 34-year veteran of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), was named director of the Private Facility Contract Monitoring/Oversight Division effective April 1.
Mendoza began his career as a correctional officer at the Eastham Unit in Lovelady and served in various leadership positions within the Correctional Institutions Division, including senior warden, regional director and deputy director of Management Operations. Most recently, Mendoza served as division director for the Administrative Review and Risk Management Division.
TDCJ Executive Director Brad Livingston congratulated Mendoza on his appointment, saying, "His strong operational focus has led to many improvements, and his solid leadership experience and wealth of knowledge will continue to serve TDCJ well."
In March, Paul Morales was selected as director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice's Administrative Review and Risk Management Division effective April 1.
Morales, a veteran agency employee with more than 25 years experience, began his career as a correctional officer at the Terrell Unit in 1989 and rose through the agency's security ranks, serving as senior warden at the Segovia, Lynaugh/Ft. Stockton, and the McConnell and Connally units. In 2009 Morales was named Correctional Institutions Division's (CID) Region III Director and, three years later, took over as director of the Correctional Training and Staff Development Department for CID. His most recent service was as deputy director of Management Operations for CID. During his career with the agency, Morales earned a master's degree in Criminal Justice from Southwest University.
Congratulating Morales on his promotion, CID Director Bill Stephens said, "Mr. Morales brings strong operational oversight and leadership abilities to this position that will serve the agency well."
In April, Lorie Davis was selected as deputy director of Management Operations for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice's Correctional Institutions Division (CID).
Davis has more than 25 years CID experience, having started her career as a correctional officer and promoted through the security ranks, eventually serving as CID Region III Director and director of Correctional Training and Staff Development. Davis holds a bachelor's degree from Midwestern State University and a master's degree from Texas Tech University, and has worked as senior warden at nine different TDCJ facilities.
Congratulating Davis on her selection, CID Director Bill Stephens said, "(Davis) has worked on units with diverse operations, to include substance abuse, inpatient mental health, a regional medical facility, maximum security and female offenders. We look forward to her contributions as she assumes this new role."
In April, Cody Ginsel, a 26-year veteran of Texas' criminal justice system, was selected to lead the Correctional Institutions Division's (CID) Correctional Training and Staff Development Department effective May 1.
Ginsel, who holds a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice degree from Lamar University, began his career with TDCJ in 1988 as a textbook coordinator for the Windham School District. In 1990 he became a correctional officer at the Huntsville Unit and continued to promote through the agency, holding several senior warden positions throughout the state, most recently serving as director of CID Region IV.
The second-quarter challenge, which ran from January to March, was a tremendous success. Participating employees collectively accumulated more than 18 million points, which means we have achieved more than 37 million points so far for the 2014 Challenge. Amazing results! Congratulations!
Congratulations to all participating departments and offices, and to all our competitors. You did a great job! Thank you again for your support of this fitness initiative and I look forward to your continued participation.
19 or fewer employees
|Board of Criminal Justice and Austin Executive Administration||Parole Division Specialized Programs||Parole Division Central Headquarters|
20 to 39 employees
|Internal Audit Division||
Office of the General Counsel
|Correctional Institutions Division (CID) Support Operations|
40 to 99 employees
|Administrative Review and Risk Management||Huntsville Institutional Parole Office||Health Services Division|
100 to 199 employees
|Correctional Training Administration - CID||Glossbrenner Unit - CID||Information Technology Division|
200 to 299 employees
|LeBlanc Unit - CID||Travis County State Jail – CID||Facilities Division|
300 plus employees
|Manufacturing and Logistics Division||Jester IV Unit - CID||Wallace/Ware Units - CID|
|Division 7: Windham School District (WSD)||WSD West Texas Region||WSD North Texas Region||WSD South Texas Region|
During the second quarter, Gold Challenge participants had to earn 1,000 points during each week of the challenge, and Platinum Challenge participants were required to earn at least 2,500 points per week. Edward Hebert of the Gist Unit earned the most points among the agency's 94 Platinum Challengers, and Hospital Galveston's Darnell Jones was the points leader among 239 Gold Challenge participants.
Click on the links below for complete lists of successful Gold and Platinum Challenge participants.