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An employee publication of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice
September/October 2014
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ERS requests additional funding for employee retirement and health benefits

Texas budget graphic

The Employees Retirement System (ERS) has requested an additional $378.7 million in general revenue funding during the FY 2016-17 biennium in order to fund employee pension programs at their actuarially sound contribution rates. An actuarially sound contribution rate would cover the normal costs of benefits and eliminate any unfunded liabilities within 31 years. Increasing contribution rates to something less than the actuarially sound level would not completely solve the long term problem, but could move the projected date on which funds are exhausted further into the future.

Most of the additional funding would be directed toward the regular ERS retirement trust fund, with smaller amounts targeted for the Law Enforcement and Custodial Officer Supplemental retirement fund and the Judicial Retirement Plan. According to the Legislative Appropriations Request submitted by the ERS, the regular retirement trust fund is anticipated to run out of funds in 2052 unless action is taken to increase funding or reduce benefits.

In 2013, a 1 percent increase in state employee contribution rates was approved: the increase, however, is being phased in over a four-year period. Consequently, the contribution rate for most state employees will increase to 7.5 percent by fiscal year 2017 (8 percent for employees in the LECOS fund). With the additional funding requested by ERS, the state's contribution rate for the regular ERS retirement trust fund would increase from 7.5 percent to 11.94 percent.

The Employees Retirement System has also requested an additional $407.6 million in general revenue funding: $190.5 million to continue providing health plan benefits at the existing level and $217.1 million to replenish a contingency reserve fund at the statutorily required amount. The ERS Legislative Appropriations Request says that state retirement and health benefits help maintain a strong and responsive workforce and cautions that changes to either program could impact the ability of state agencies to recruit and retain employees.

Executive Director Brad Livingston said the Department of Criminal Justice strongly supports the ERS request for additional funding to maintain both the long-term fiscal viability of the pension program and current employee health benefits.

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TDCJ successfully transitions to Microsoft Office 365 email system

Microsoft Office 365 graphic

After more than 14 years using the previous email system, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice recently converted to the Office 365 email platform, a "cloud service" from Microsoft. The Information Technology Division's careful planning, installation and technical support, aided by cooperation of each agency division and department, made this challenging communication system upgrade a success. Office 365 is made available to the TDCJ through the Department of Information Resources data center services contract and meets the requirements set forth by the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) security policy.

O365, as it is called, is a web-based version of the Microsoft Office suite which includes the Outlook Web application for email, SharePoint Online for group collaboration, Lync Online for instant messaging and OneDrive for document storage and sharing. O365 also provides TDCJ users with a web-based version of the Microsoft Office suite, including Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

TDCJ's Information Technology Division spent more than a year preparing for this transition, which included software installation, infrastructure support and more. ITD worked with contacts from each department and division to help coordinate the move and keep users apprised of the project's status. The agency successfully migrated 8,320 mailboxes, 363 shared resources such as calendars, and 472 Blackberries from Lotus Notes to new O365 accounts in just five weeks.

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Governor appoints Amarillo pastor to Board of Criminal Justice


TBCJ member Larry Miles

Larry Miles

In August, Governor Rick Perry appointed Pastor Larry Don Miles to the Texas Board of Criminal Justice. Pastor Miles replaces Tom Mechler of Amarillo who served as vice chairman of the board.

Pastor Miles attended West Texas A&M University, Amarillo College and served in the U.S. Army. He is pastor and elder of the Trinity Fellowship Church in Amarillo, and oversees state prison and jail ministries for the William P. "Bill" Clements Unit, Nathaniel J. Neal Unit, and Potter and Randall County jails. Pastor Miles is also a certified volunteer chaplain for the Clements and Neal units and the Amarillo Parole office.

TBCJ Chairman Oliver Bell stated, "I am looking forward to working with Pastor Miles and believe his involvement with the TDCJ Chaplaincy and other programs will be very beneficial to the agency."

Pastor Miles, whose board term expires on February 1, 2017, will serve as a member of the Community Corrections, Correctional Institutions, and Victim Services committees, and will chair the Rehabilitation and Reentry Programs Committee.

Terrell McCombs succeeded Tom Mechler as vice chairman of the board. He currently serves as a member of the Human Resources, Audit and Review, and Legal committees. McCombs' term will expire February 2019.

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State Bar honors board member Gist with lifetime achievement award

TBCJ member Judge Larry Gist
 
Judge Larry Gist  

In September, the Judicial Section of the State Bar of Texas presented Texas Board of Criminal Justice member Judge Larry Gist with the Judicial Lifetime Achievement Award. This award acknowledges Gist's commitment to judicial excellence and his important contributions to improving the justice system in Texas. Judge Gist, a Senior Criminal District Judge in Beaumont, is the first criminal trial judge to receive this honor.

Gist was appointed to the board in March 2011 and serves as the chairman of the Community Corrections Committee. He is also a member of the Legal and Victim Services committees. Judge Gist’s appointment to the TBCJ runs through February 2017.

TBCJ Chairman Oliver Bell commented, "Judge Gist has served honorably, treating everyone with equality and fairness, and he has earned the respect and admiration of all those who know him."

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Chairman's Fitness Challenge 2014: fourth-quarter results

Oliver J. Bell, TBCJ Chairman

The fourth-quarter challenge, which ran from June to August, was a tremendous success. Participating employees collectively accumulated 21,380,676 points, which means we have achieved more than 78 million points during the 2014 Challenge. These are tremendous results!

Congratulations to all participating departments and offices, and to all our competitors. Thank you for your support of this fitness initiative and I look forward to your continued participation.

  FIRST SECOND THIRD
Division 1:
19 or fewer employees
Board of Criminal Justice and Austin Executive Administration Parole Division Headquarters Snyder Institutional Parole Office
Division 2:
20 to 39 employees
Office of the General Counsel

Parole
Region III

Internal Audit Division
Division 3:
40 to 99 employees
Administrative Review and Risk Management State Counsel for Offenders Health Services Division
Division 4:
100 to 199 employees
Correctional Training Administration - CID Glossbrenner Unit - CID Havins Unit - CID
Division 5:
200 to 299 employees
Cole State Jail - CID Boyd Unit - CID LeBlanc Unit - CID
Division 6:
300 plus employees
Jester IV Unit - CID Manufacturing and Logistics Division Wallace/Ware units - CID
Division 7: Windham School District (WSD) WSD West Texas Region WSD North Texas Region WSD South Texas Region

 

Gold and Platinum Challenges

During the fourth 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. Nikki Newman from the Gurney Unit earned the most points among the agency's 122 Platinum challengers, and Dianne Fuller from Agribusiness, Land and Minerals was the point leader among 286 Gold Challenge participants.

Click on the links below for complete lists of successful Gold and Platinum Challenge participants.

Gold Challenge participants

Platinum Challenge participants

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2015 Chairman's Fitness Challenge: From Touchdown to the World Series

Oliver J. Bell, TBCJ Chairman

football and baseball sports illustration

It's time to kickoff the 2015 Chairman's Fitness Challenge and this year's theme is From Touchdown to the World Series. The first two quarters of the Challenge will focus on football and run through the Super Bowl game. Quarters three and four will have a baseball theme to carry us through most of the baseball season.

The 2015 Challenge is designed to motivate employees throughout the agency to stay in shape during the upcoming winter months and stay on course for the rest of the year by engaging in physical fitness activities and developing healthy eating habits. To help you succeed, the agency will continue publishing weekly Healthy Alternative Tips on the TDCJ website.

Each quarter will consist of a two-week sign up period followed by a six-week Challenge and, as in the past, Administrative Leave will be awarded each quarter to every employee who successfully completes that quarter's Challenge in its entirety.

The kickoff Challenge, First Quarter Football Frenzy, requires employees earn 200 points per week for successful completion. The second quarter Challenge, Countdown to the Super Bowl, requires earning 225 points per week and the third quarter Challenge, Play Ball!, requires 250 points each week. The fourth quarter Challenge, Countdown to the World Series, requires participants earn at least 275 points weekly. Use the 2015 Chairman's Fitness Challenge exercise equivalents chart, available in the Chairman’s Challenge Participant Packet, to record and report points to your Wellness representative. Any listed activity or combination of activities on the chart can be used to reach the weekly goal.

Just like the 2014 Challenge, I have set a weekly minimum goal of 2,500 points for myself. I would like to challenge those of you who can to join me in the Chairman's Special Platinum Challenge by achieving 2,500 points each week. The Chairman's Gold Challenge requires 1,000 points weekly, and special recognition will be given to those who meet these weekly goals.

Determination, willpower and consistency are essential to an effective exercise and nutrition program, so I want to encourage all employees to commit to a healthier lifestyle so they might successfully complete the 2015 Chairman's Challenge, From Touchdown to the World Series. You will be healthier for your effort!

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Linthicum named ACA president


ACA President Dr. Lannette Linthicum

Dr. Lannette Linthicum

Dr. Lannette Linthicum, director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Health Services Division, was recently elected president of the American Correctional Association (ACA). The six-year term will begin next year and she will be the first health care professional to serve in this capacity.

TDCJ Executive Director Brad Livingston commented on her election saying, "Being chosen to serve as ACA president is yet another honor for Dr. Linthicum and one that she deeply deserves. It is a tribute to her professionalism and further recognition of her many accomplishments. I join with Dr. Linthicum's many friends and colleagues in extending my congratulations."

Further information relating to Dr. Linthicum becoming ACA president can be found in the July/August issue of Connections.

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ERS requests additional funding for employee retirement and health benefits

TDCJ successfully transitions to Microsoft Office 365 email system

Governor appoints Amarillo pastor to Board of Criminal Justice

State Bar honors board member Gist with lifetime achievement award

Chairman’s Fitness Challenge 2014: fourth-quarter results

2015 Chairman’s Fitness Challenge: From Touchdown to the World Series

Thanks to all TDCJ employees who supported the 2014 SECC

Linthicum named ACA president

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