Sunset review offers preliminary recommendations
After months of review, the Sunset Advisory Commission has released staff's recommendations for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ). The review process, which began in September 2011, evaluates an agency's mission and recommends operational changes to ensure the goals of the agency are met and state funding is spent efficiently.
Citing the Legislature's investment in diversion and treatment programs, recent success in reducing recidivism rates and declining parole and probation revocation rates, sunset staff concluded the criminal justice system is working well, and recommended continuing TDCJ for another twelve years. The Commission's staff also gave recommendations on the following issues:
Produce a written reentry plan with detailed goals and strategies, and evaluate the impact of reentry services using recidivism data and other means; adopt one consistent needs assessment tool, which would include criminogenic factors, for use in managing offenders on probation, parole, and in prison; use existing resources to implement a case management system for offenders; capture all of the offender's risk and needs information in the Individual Treatment Plan (ITP), including participation in state-funded and volunteer programs; expand the statutory membership and duties of the Reentry Task Force.
- Community supervision
Establish standard processes for each of the Community Justice Assistance Division's grant programs; research and consider modifications to its performance-based funding formulas and report its recommendations to the Legislature.
- Offender health care
Clarify TDCJ's authority to contract with any healthcare provider, to include, but not be limited to, specifically named university providers; adhere to standard contracting requirements when entering into any contract related to offender health care; abolish the Correctional Managed Health Care Committee as an independent state agency and restructure it as a new committee providing medical expertise to the Texas Board of Criminal Justice.
- Texas Correctional Industries (TCI)
Authorize TCI to sell its manufactured goods to privately run correctional facilities, allowing the opportunity to increase TCI's sales revenue.
- Crime victims
Develop a standard form for use by victim assistance coordinators when a victim fails to return a Victim Impact Statement; develop standard procedures for use by attorney offices prosecuting criminal cases that are designed to increase the number victim impact statements received by TDCJ.
Research and implement innovative alternatives to recruit a more diverse workforce.
The Sunset Advisory Commission heard public testimony and comment from Sunset staff on June 5, 2012. Later in the year the Commission will meet again, at which time they will adopt recommendations to be submitted to the Legislature for consideration when it convenes in January 2013. The Sunset staff report can be viewed at the following link: http://www.sunset.state.tx.us/83rd/CJ/CJ_SR.pdf
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Heat precautions and workplace safety at TDCJ
Texas is known for hot weather during the summer months, and this makes heat stress in the workplace a serious safety concern. Hot weather increases the likelihood of injuries due to sweaty palms, dizziness and fogged safety glasses, while overheating can cause weakness, confusion, nausea, and if left untreated, more serious medical emergencies.
Prevention is the best way to deal with heat-related illnesses. By gradually adapting to work in hot and humid conditions and staying hydrated with fluids, most serious heat-related issues can be avoided. 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.
It's important to recognize the following types and signs of heat stress in yourself, your coworkers and the offender population so you will know when to take action. Remember: severe heat stress is a medical emergency and must be treated by properly-trained medical personnel.
- HEAT RASH is a skin irritation caused by excessive sweating during hot, humid weather. It looks like tiny bumps surrounded by areas of redness and commonly occurs on the neck and upper chest, in the groin, under the breasts and in elbow creases. TREATMENT: Keep the affected area as cool and dry as possible.
- HEAT CRAMPS usually develop after hours of strenuous work or exercise in hot and humid conditions, and can happen even at moderate temperatures in high humidity. Cramps are brief and abrupt, intermittent, and can be severe. TREATMENT: Rest in a cool area and replace fluids and electrolytes (sodium and potassium) with cool, caffeine free liquids. Don't give liquids to a person who is unconscious or not alert. If the patient does not improve within 30 minutes, seek medical attention.
- HEAT EXHAUSTION, or heat prostration, is caused by an electrolyte (sodium and potassium) imbalance. Symptoms include weakness, anxiety, dizziness, headache, nausea and sometimes vomiting. Signs include heavy perspiration, rapid pulse and lack of coordination. The patient's skin may appear gray and be cool and clammy to the touch. TREATMENT: Seek medical help immediately. Rest the victim in a cool area, replace fluids and electrolytes, and remove the victim's shirt and shoes.
- HEAT STROKE means the body can no longer cool itself. It may be preceded by signs of heat exhaustion, but the onset of heat stroke is often sudden. Physical collapse of the victim may be the first indication of a problem. Signs include hot and dry skin, rapid pulse, headache and weakness, lack of coordination, nausea and vomiting, followed by unconsciousness, shock and death. TREATMENT: This is a medical emergency, seek medical help immediately. Move the victim to a cool, air-conditioned place, remove their clothing and cool them using a water spray and fans.
Exposure to heat and humidity are often unavoidable for agency staff and offenders. It is important to diminish the impact of the Texas summer by drinking plenty of fluids, remaining alert to the warning signs of heat stress in yourself or others, and seeking immediate medical assistance if symptoms of heat related illness appear.