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An employee publication of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice
November/December 2016
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Message from the executive director: legislative update

By Bryan Collier

TDCJ executive director Bryan Collier
 
Bryan Collier
 

On November 14, 2016, legislators began pre-filing bills for the upcoming legislative session which begins on January 10, 2017. More than 500 bills were filed on the first day, but since then the pace of bill filing has slowed considerably. None of the legislation pre-filed to date would have a substantial impact on the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) or the agency’s employees. As expected, neither the house nor senate version of the fiscal years 2018-19 general appropriations bill were included among the early submissions. Although the proposed state budget probably won’t be available until January 2017, we have already been meeting with various legislative offices regarding future funding.

Also during November, the House Pensions Committee met to discuss unfunded liabilities for the Law Enforcement and Custodial Officer Supplemental Retirement Fund (LECOS). Porter Wilson, Executive Director of the Employees Retirement System of Texas (ERS) said neither the LECOS fund nor the regular ERS retirement fund were funded at an actuarially sound level, but reported the status of both funds had substantially improved because of actions taken by the 84th Texas Legislature. Click on this link for more information regarding the ERS' plans for making the funds actuarially sound.

Looking ahead, it is impossible to anticipate every legislative issue affecting TDCJ employees that may arise during the next five months, but I want to address one item which could affect part of our workforce. Given recent declines in the offender population and projections indicating the population will remain relatively stable in the future, the 85th Texas Legislature may consider closing one or more correctional facilities. Should the state close a unit it would by no means be the first time; in 2011, the Central unit in Fort Bend County was closed, and in 2013 operations were terminated at both the Dawson State Jail in Dallas and the Mineral Wells Pre-Parole Transfer Facility.

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 a proposal to close the South Texas Intermediate Sanction Facility (ISF) located in downtown Houston. The privately operated facility houses up to 450 parole violators who, under this proposal, would be relocated to the Kegans State Jail, also located in downtown Houston. The mission of the Kegans Unit would change from a state jail to an ISF.

While the South Texas ISF is privately operated, decisions regarding the closure of correctional facilities could also affect state-operated institutions. Many factors could be considered when considering specific units for closure, to include mission, operational cost, infrastructure, staffing and location. This agency will recommend policymakers be conservative when planning for future capacity needs because sufficient correctional capacity for offender population is critical for both staff and offender safety, and TDCJ will once again strive to minimize the impact on agency employees should a facility be closed. For example, the TDCJ will facilitate transfers to nearby units with vacant positions and, when possible to do so without compromising safety and security, delay filling positions at nearby units in order to accommodate transferring staff. Similar efforts to assist displaced staff during previous unit closures were very successful.

Although a decision regarding closure of the South Texas ISF has already been made, decisions regarding any other unit closures would likely be finalized in mid to late May. As in previous legislative sessions, we will continue to use the TDCJ website and the online Connections newsletter to keep employees informed regarding appropriation and policy decisions affecting the agency's workforce.

From the personal experiences I’ve had with the state's elected officials over the years, I can assure you they deeply appreciate your contributions to public safety. During the upcoming legislative session I look forward to working with them again on a wide range of criminal justice and employee issues.

Thank you for your efforts on behalf of all Texans. It is my honor serve as your executive director and to represent TDCJ and its many dedicated public servants.

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Correctional officers Haney, Greer receive CID Valor Award

In October, TDCJ Executive Director Bryan Collier presented correctional officers Kimberly Haney and Paula Greer with the Correctional Institutions Division's Valor Award at a ceremony held at the Telford Unit in New Boston. The officers were honored for their quick and effective response during an attempted hostage situation earlier in the summer.


Photos of correctional officers Kimberly Haney and Paula Greer.

Correctional officers Haney (left) and Greer received CID Valor Awards for thier swift actions during a hostage situation at the Telford Unit.

Late on the afternoon of July 26, Henley and Greer intervened when an offender abruptly entered a medical office and attempted to take a nurse hostage. Medical staff had cleared the offender to return to his cell and, as he walked along the corridor, officers Haney and Greer observed his movement toward the building's exit. When the offender stopped and attempted to speak to a nurse, whose office was just off the hallway, both officers took note. When he abruptly barged into the office and grabbed the nurse in a chokehold, Haney and Greer took immediate action.

Within seconds, Haney pushed the office door open and demanded the offender release the nurse. When he refused, Haney sprayed him with her carry-on-person chemical agent. Almost simultaneously, Officer Greer approached the scene and released her chemical agent. Haney was able to pull the nurse to safety and the offender was quickly restrained.

Owing to their bravery, quick thinking and rapid response, both officers received the CID's Valor Award, which is presented to correctional officers whose actions demonstrate outstanding job performance and personify the agency's core values of perseverance, integrity, courage and commitment.

Telford Unit Warden Joseph Wilson says both Officer Greer and Officer Haney went above and beyond the call of duty with their actions. "They did a great job. I'm extremely proud of them and they deserve this recognition," he said. "I'm honored to have officers like them on staff. You never know what you're going to do or how you'll react until you're put in that position, and they didn't even blink an eye."

Executive Director Collier commended Haney and Greer, saying, "The actions of both officers exemplify the courage and commitment we see every day from staff throughout TDCJ. It makes me proud to lead an agency with such brave, dedicated professionals."

Officer Greer began working for TDCJ nine years ago and Officer Haney is a 12-year veteran of TDCJ.

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Women's cognitive pre-release program opens at the Marlin Unit

Beginning September 1, nearly thirty female offenders were transported from units all across the state to the Marlin Unit in Falls County. They became the first participants in a new six-month cognitive pre-release program designed to provide releasing offenders with more of the information, skills and other tools they need to successfully reintegrate into society while leading productive and law-abiding lives.

Similar to the cognitive program the Rehabilitation Programs Division currently offers to male offenders at the Hamilton Unit, the Marlin program addresses many of the obstacles these women will encounter when they return to their communities. RPD Director Madeline Ortiz explained the program's goals, saying "It promotes positive change, positive behavior and responsibility. It also teaches them to recognize the differences between healthy and unhealthy relationships."


Photo of TDCJ program case manager Irvanette Lofton helping offenders in class in the congnitive pre-release program

As part of the new Female Cognitive Pre-release Program at the Marlin Unit, Case Manager Irvanette Lofton helps offenders learn skills such as budgeting and household management.

Program Case Manager Irvanette Lofton has been on the unit since August preparing for this first group of 28 women and is excited about the program's potential for success, saying "It's just a really great program. From relationships, talking to authority figures, money, budgeting, communicating and helping, everything they learn in this program can be applied when they release."

Some of the topics covered by the curriculum include parenting, anger management, women's health, responsible thinking and employment preparation. Program participants work together to plan household budgets, practice job interviewing skills and participate in role-playing exercises designed to help them make better choices. Lofton also pointed out one of the new program's strengths, saying "Because they come from such diverse backgrounds, coming into this group gives them the opportunity to learn how to adjust to a new environment and new personalities. They learn how to work as a team and learn from each other." She explains that simple manners like saying "please" and "thank you" and taking turns are unfamiliar to many of them.

When they arrive, Lofton meets with each offender individually and creates a personalized treatment plan, which will address their needs while in the program and once they're released. Regular meetings help ensure the women are working toward their goals, which may include finding a job or enrolling in a substance abuse program in the community.


Photo of TDCJ program case manager Irvanette Lofton having one on one discussion with an offender in the cognitive pre-release program.

Ms. Lofton meets with offenders one-on-one to discuss their progress through the program.

Lofton says that even in the short time the Marlin program has been active, she has seen a big difference in the offenders. "It's amazing. The way they address you and speak to you is different from when they first arrived. The way they walk and carry themselves is different. They even take more pride in their appearance. You can see the transformation."

The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles votes on placement in the program and completion is a condition of parole. The Marlin program has a new class of 40 women arriving in December.

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TDCJ employees raise more than
$1 million in 2016 SECC donations

The 2016 State Employee Charitable Campaign results have been finalized and TDCJ employees have once again raised more than one million dollars in donations for the state’s only statutorily authorized workplace fundraising program.

Announcing the 2016 totals, the agency's SECC Coordinator Carie Beaty credited TDCJ employees and a well-coordinated effort for this year's achievement, saying "Thanks to our generous employees, the agency raised over a million dollars for the second year in a row. It is through high levels of generosity, teamwork and supportive leadership that TDCJ was able to once again have a successful campaign."

A total of $1,008,433 in TDCJ employee donations was collected during the 2016 campaign, which marked the 23rd year of SECC operations. As in past years, a majority of those who donated chose to do so through payroll deductions, although cash donation totals were also very high.

Executive Director Bryan Collier commented on the agency's longstanding support for the SECC fundraising campaign, saying "Year after year, TDCJ employees give generously to those in need. The people of Texas are fortunate to have dedicated public servants who not only protect the public, but also give of their time and hard earned money so others may benefit. It is my privilege to lead the men and women who serve the state of Texas as employees of the Department of Criminal Justice."

secc texas logo with image of little girl with flowers. 'Think with your heart...GIVE'

 

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Chairman’s Fitness Challenge FY17: first-quarter results

By Dale Wainwright, TBCJ Chairman

 

The first-quarter challenge, which ran from October to November, was a notable success. Those who took on the challenge accumulated a total of 22,142,584 points!

Congratulations to all departments, offices and individuals who took part. Thank you for your support of this fitness initiative.

  FIRST SECOND THIRD
Division 1:
19 or fewer employees
Texas Board of Criminal Justice and Austin Executive Administration Amarillo Institutional Parole Office Parole Interstate Compact
Division 2:
20 to 39 employees
Richmond/Rosenberg Parole Office Support Operations – CID Parole Hearings - Arlington, Dallas, Tyler
Division 3:
40 to 99 employees
Administrative Review and Risk Management Division Health Services Division Board of Pardons and Paroles
Division 4:
100 to 199 employees
Information Technology Division Correctional Training Administration - CID Havins Unit - CID
Division 5:
200 to 299 employees
Byrd Unit - CID Boyd Unit - CID Classification/
Records - CID
Division 6:
300 plus employees
Manufacturing and Logistics Division Jester IV Unit - CID Wallace/Ware Units - CID
Division 7: Windham School District (WSD) WSD North
Texas Region
WSD West
Texas Region
WSD South
Texas Region

 

Gold and Platinum Challenges

During the first quarter, Gold Challenge participants had to earn 1,000 points during each week of the challenge and those who took on the Platinum Challenge were required to earn at least 2,500 points per week. Lyssa Elliott from the Manufacturing and Logistics Division earned the most points among the agency’s 138 Platinum Challenge participants, and Melanie Miller from Parole Division Hearings Section was the point leader among 405 Gold Challenge participants.

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star bulletAgency News

Message from the executive director: legislative update

Correctional officers Haney, Greer receive CID Valor Award

Women’s cognitive pre-release program opens at the Marlin Unit

TDCJ employees raise more than $1 million in 2016 SECC donations

Chairman’s Fitness Challenge FY17: first-quarter results

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