connections logo
An employee publication of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice
September/October 2015
  Current Issue Archive TDCJ Phone & Address Directory Contact TDCJ Home

Print Copy

TDCJ expands mental health response, crisis intervention training

clipart reading 'crisis'

TDCJ continues to review and revise the correctional staff training curriculum to better prepare newly hired staff for work in the prison environment and to help current employees continue performing their duties safely and effectively. In FY 2016, the Correctional Institutions Division's Correctional Training and Staff Development department increased training hours and modified the curriculum to enhance supervision of offenders in emotional crisis or with mental health issues.

In September, the agency increased pre-service and in-service crisis intervention and mental health response training for corrections staff. Pre-service training expanded from 216 to 240 hours with most of the additional training devoted to mental health/crisis intervention. In addition, the time devoted to these topics during on-the-job and annual in-service training also increased. CID Director Bill Stephens described the goal of this intervention and response training initiative, saying, "The increase in training hours and additional emphasis on mental health response training is designed to give corrections staff in the field more of the knowledge and skills they need to assess a potential mental health issue and take immediate and proper action to effectively and safely deal with the problem in order to prevent a crisis situation."

The agency's crisis response and mental health first aid training curriculum was revised with the input of mental health professionals and TDCJ staff members who have experience working at the agency's psychiatric care units. The expanded training is similar to the same 32-hour training program given to new correctional staff at these mental health facilities. Deputy Director of Management Operations Cody Ginsel described the enhanced training, saying "TDCJ's mental health response training incorporates the experience of agency employees who have spent years supervising offenders at inpatient mental health facilities. That knowledge base was used to enhance an already effective program, and I believe the revised training curriculum would be helpful for anyone who works in corrections."

By incorporating a training program similar to that provided for staff in the agency's mental health facilities, all employees attending pre- and in-service training will continue learning how to identify the signs of mental illness and suicidal behavior and how to quickly and effectively respond with proper command notification and treatment by a mental health professional, but with an increased focus to better prepare them for dealing with mentally ill offenders. The expanded training program meets the curriculum standards set by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement.

CID Deputy Director of Prison and Jail Operations Robert Eason noted that agency employees are not immune to mental health issues related to working in a stressful environment, and that staff members are advised during training as to what they can do to help a colleague who shows warning signs. "Corrections professionals have to deal with stressful work environments and mental health issues are not confined to offenders," Eason said. "Identifying and dealing with potential mental health issues among staff is also important."

Print Copy

TDCJ values armed service veterans, names employment liaison


TDCJ Human Resources Recruiter Renee Langston discusses employment options with a lieutenant stationed at Ft. Hood Army base

Human Resources Recruiter Renee Langston discusses employment options with a lieutenant stationed at Fort Hood Army base.

Nearly thirty-seven thousand men and women work for TDCJ, and many of these dedicated professionals began their public service before joining the agency. TDCJ currently employs more than 5400 US armed forces veterans and 644 staff members who serve with the National Guard or Reserves, including 73 on active duty.

TDCJ values the work experience and technical skills acquired by U.S. veterans and has long supported both active duty personnel and veterans who have served their nation. TDCJ Human Resources Director Patty Garcia underscored the agency's desire to increase recruitment among armed service veterans, saying, "TDCJ values the service of all veterans, and the Human Resources staff, recruiters and the veteran's liaison work to be accessible and informative for veteran applicants who are considering TDCJ as their next employer."

Consistent with legislation effective September 1, Human Resources Section Director of Employment Paula Gilbert also serves as the agency's veteran's liaison. Connections recently sat down with her to talk about her duties and the agency's commitment to recruiting service veterans for employment.

 

TDCJ has a long history of supporting veterans. Can you describe the reason for this commitment?

 

It's a mutually beneficial relationship; former military personnel like the familiar military-like structure of the corrections staff and time has proven that the work ethic, discipline and professionalism associated with military service personnel is an excellent fit for a career in criminal justice. Former service members come in with career goals in mind and tend to advance quickly.

 

How does TDCJ make a career in corrections attractive to military personnel?

 

Veterans who have been honorably discharged from the service and come to work for TDCJ enjoy many employment benefits. First, they're exempt from the correctional officer pre-employment screening test; a service member within six months of leave can walk into an employment fair and a recruiter will be on hand to walk them through the application process and interview them the same day. By the time they're honorably discharged, we only need a copy of their Terminal Leave Letter signed by their commanding officer and they can report to the agency's pre-service training academy. Second, applicants with at least two years honorable military service are hired at a rank of Correctional Officer III with a starting salary of more than three thousand dollars a month.

Another benefit for service veterans is the agency's Veteran Reinstatement Policy, described in PD-76, which allows employees who leave the agency for military service to return on the same career path if they resume agency employment within five years. That means if a Correctional Officer III leaves the agency and serves five years in the armed forces, they can be reinstated as if they never left, including salary and benefits. In this example, the officer would be reinstated as a CO V with an additional five years’ state service.

 

What are your responsibilities as TDCJ’s veteran’s liaison?

 

I feel like I'm acting as a bridge from these potential employees to the agency. We need good employees in our agency and many veterans have the skills we're seeking, but for some who have made the armed forces their only career, the prospect of searching for a good job in unfamiliar terrain can be overwhelming. I help them navigate TDCJ policy and procedures and learn about their potential employment benefits as they transition to state service. I've also found that many of them benefit from the one-on-one contact with someone familiar with state employment. I routinely respond to phone calls and emails about employment eligibility and the application process. Many of the vets have never had to search for a job or go through the interview process, so I'm there to help.

I also work to ensure we have agency representatives at veteran hiring events throughout the state.

 

Can you tell us more about how TDCJ recruits veterans?

 

We mail employment packets with specific information about benefits veterans receive to military installations throughout the United States. We also have a video available on our website and YouTube. Military Veterans and TDCJ has been viewed more than 7,000 times in less than a year.

We've also been placing an emphasis on attending military recruitment events. We currently have 12 Human Resources recruiters who work regionally, traveling throughout Texas and to military installations in other states. By having them available to interview potential employees, were showing these veterans we’re interested in them and what they can offer our agency. That is a distinct advantage.

 

How else does TDCJ support veterans who come to work for the agency?

 

We have an initiative to facilitate direct hiring of disabled veterans and, with the help of Senate Bill 389, have begun including Military Occupational Specialty Codes on job postings. These codes are assigned to specific job functions in each military branch. Having them listed on the job posting will make it easier for veterans to find a position that closely corresponds with their military experience. The applicants are still required to summarize their employment on their application and meet the minimum qualifications for the position.

 

Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?

 

As veteran's liaison, my job is to be a resource to these men and women and let them know that TDCJ appreciates the service they've given to this country. In the process, I hope I can ease their transition from an armed service member to state employee. My contact information is available online.

 

Banner graphic announcing veterans day on november 11. In honor of those who have served, including the many veterans throughout TDCJ, take a moment to thank a vet!

back to top

Print Copy

PACT Conference held in Huntsville

The 2015 TDCJ Public Awareness – Corrections Today Conference was held on Saturday, October 3 in Huntsville at the George Beto Criminal Justice Center on the campus of Sam Houston State University. TDCJ began holding the PACT Conference in 2002 in order to give offender families, friends and other concerned parties useful information regarding various aspects of agency operations as well as direct access to senior agency staff, unit wardens, rehabilitative service providers and health professionals.

Numerous TDCJ staff members distributed informative literature, discussed agency policy and procedures, and participated in direct, face-to-face conversations with more than 250 attendees. In addition to offender families, conference participants included members of the general public, community leaders, offender advocates, criminal justice volunteers and prison and jail ministry leaders. The conference agenda included presentations and panel discussions by the Correctional Institutions, Parole, Reentry and Integration, Rehabilitation Programs, Private Facilities and Health Services divisions. Representatives of the Windham School District and the Board of Pardons and Paroles were also on-hand to provide information and answer questions about their operations.

Speaking at the October meeting of the Texas Board of Criminal Justice, TDCJ Executive Director Brad Livingston commented on the success of the PACT Conference, saying, "As in past years, the conference provided offender families and the general public an opportunity to hear many presentations on aspects of TDCJ operations to include visitation, offender health, rehabilitation programming and others. The conference also gave individuals an opportunity to visit directly with TDCJ staff. This conference is by no means the only opportunity the public has to learn about the agency or to enquire about a loved one, but it is certainly an excellent forum that the participants seem to appreciate, as they've told us on many occasions. I want to thank specifically the Ombudsman's Office and TDCJ staff who participated."

 

  • Administrative Review and Risk Management Program Specialist II Tues E-Siringi registers attendees arriving at the conferenceAdministrative Review and Risk Management Program Specialist II Tues E-Siringi registers attendees arriving at the conference.
  • Health Services Administrator II Linda Farrell discusses offender health care options with a concerned motherHealth Services Administrator II Linda Farrell discusses offender health care options with a concerned mother.
  • Rehabilitation Programs Division Director Madeline Ortiz answers questions during a breakout sessionRehabilitation Programs Division Director Madeline Ortiz answers questions during a breakout session.
  • Reentry and Integration Division Director April Zamora listens to audience members during a divisional breakout sessionReentry and Integration Division Director April Zamora listens to audience members during a divisional breakout session.
  • Deputy Director of Parole Field Operations Pamela Thielke shares information with visitors during the Parole Division breakout meetingDeputy Director of Parole Field Operations Pamela Thielke shares information with visitors during the Parole Division breakout meeting.
  • Wynne Unit Warden Kelly Strong discusses Correctional Institutions Division operations with a conference participantWynne Unit Warden Kelly Strong discusses Correctional Institutions Division operations with a conference participant.

 

back to top

Print Copy

ASCA honors Livingston with
Francke Award

In September, the Association of State Correctional Administrators recognized TDCJ Executive Director Brad Livingston as their Outstanding Director of Corrections and presented him with its highest honor, the ASCA's 2015 Michael Francke Award. The ASCA presents the annual Michael Francke Award to recognize an Association member whose achievements demonstrate outstanding dedication to the corrections profession.


TDCJ Executive Director Brad Livingston

Brad Livingston
TDCJ Executive Director

Morris Thigpen, chair of the Francke Committee and the first person to receive the award, presented the honor to Livingston and cited many of his accomplishments and achievements. Mr. Thigpen noted that the TDCJ director has been a champion of corrections employees, actively working with the governor and legislature to significantly improve correctional officer and parole officer salaries. During Livingston's tenure, entry-level correctional officer salaries have increased by about 57 percent and maximum correctional officer salaries have increased nearly 40 percent.

Thigpen also highlighted the establishment of successful training and leadership development programs, the installation of new comprehensive video surveillance systems and other measures to help ensure employee safety and interdict contraband, enhanced treatment and diversion programs for offenders, as well as the expansion of TDCJ's mental health services.

"I am honored to receive the Francke award and want to thank those who made it possible, to include the governor and the members of the legislature who have provided funding, but most of all the agency's dedicated employees who protect and serve the public every day," said Livingston. "The citizens of Texas are fortunate to have such outstanding men and women performing a vital public service."

Livingston joined TDCJ in 1997 as the deputy director of the Financial Services Division. He was appointed chief financial officer in 2001 and assumed responsibility for the agency's day-to-day business, fiscal and administrative operations. Livingston continued as the agency's CFO while serving as the interim executive director for nine months and was named executive director in November 2004. In this role, he oversees management operations of one of the largest criminal justice agencies in the free world, with approximately thirty-seven thousand employees and an annual agency budget of more than $3 billion.

back to top

Print Copy

Your opinion counts, share it through the Survey of Employee Engagement

clipart image of laptop computer and survey clipboard with pencil

TDCJ employees often deal with difficult, potentially hazardous work, and daily challenges that few who are not criminal justice professionals fully understand. The knowledge gained through that work experience is valuable, and the Survey of Employee Engagement gives agency employees an opportunity to share their insight and opinions with senior agency staff and the state's elected officials.

Between November 2 and November 30, TDCJ employees may take a few minutes from their workday to anonymously express their feelings about their workplace by completing the Survey of Employee Engagement. Before the start date, agency staff will receive a paper copy of the survey with a postage-paid envelope for mailing, along with instructions for completing the survey online.

This survey is coordinated by the University of Texas at Austin School of Social Work and is conducted at least once every two years. Senior agency staff and elected officials will have access to survey results, as will the Legislative Budget Board and the Governor’s Office of Budget, Planning and Policy.

back to top

Print Copy

SECC thanks TDCJ employees

Banner graphic thanking TDCJ employees for their participation in the 2015 SECC

back to top

Print Copy

Claim It Texas website connects owners with unclaimed property

Image of opened safe deposit box, showing jewels and valuables inside.

According to the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, TDCJ employees have more than $242,000 in missing money waiting for them. It's never too late to claim your rightful property and the Comptroller's Claim It Texas search engine makes it easy to find out if the state is holding property in your name.

A quick search of the Comptroller's unclaimed property database can tell if you are owed money from forgotten bank accounts, uncashed checks, refunds or other sources. To learn more about unclaimed properties held by the state, go to ClaimItTexas.org or call 800-654-3463 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Last year, the state returned more than $200 million to its rightful owners.

back to top

Print Copy

Chairman's Fitness Challenge 2014: fourth-quarter results

Dale Wainwright, TBCJ Chairman

 

The fourth-quarter challenge, which ran from June to August, was a tremendous success. Participating employees collectively accumulated 21,135,564 points, which means we have achieved more than 77 million points during the 2015 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 Richmond/Rosenberg District Parole Office Specialized Programs - Parole
Division 2:
20 to 39 employees
Support Operations - CID Office of the
General Counsel
Parole
Region III
Division 3:
40 to 99 employees
Administrative Review and Risk Management Health Services Division State Counsel for Offenders
Division 4:
100 to 199 employees
Information Technology Division Marlin Unit - CID Correctional Training Administration
Division 5:
200 to 299 employees
Cole State Jail - CID Boyd Unit - CID Facilities Division
Division 6:
300 plus employees
Manufacturing and Logistics Division Clements Unit – CID Jester IV Unit - 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. Dustin Lafon from Correctional Training Administration earned the most points among the agency's 140 Platinum Challengers, and Wesley Roe from Manufacturing and Logistics was the point leader among 319 Gold Challenge participants.

back to top

Print Copy

2016 Chairman’s Fitness Challenge

Dale Wainwright, TBCJ Chairman

 

It is that time again! We just kicked off the FY 2016 Chairman's Fitness Challenge for TDCJ and Windham employees. We have a different theme for each quarter in an effort to keep you on the right track and encourage you to continue through the year to successful completion next summer!

The themes for this year’s challenge are:

 

First Quarter: Commit to be Fit

Second Quarter: One Step at a Time...Stay Focused

Third Quarter: Too Fit to Quit

Fourth Quarter: Be Strong...Finish Strong!

 

excercise graphic with male and female figures running

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 kick-off challenge, Commit to be Fit, requires employees earn 200 points per week for successful completion. This event is designed to encourage all employees to engage in physical fitness activities and to encourage participation agency wide. The challenge began Monday, October 5, and will end Sunday, November 15.

I have set a weekly minimum goal of 1,000 points for myself! Back again this year is the Chairman's Gold Challenge, my target, requiring 1,000 points weekly for successful completion in this category. I’m challenging those of you who can, to aim even higher and join the Chairman's Special Platinum Challenge for achieving 2,500 points each week. Use any of the activities on the Exercise Equivalents Chart to reach the goal. A special recognition will be given to those who meet these goals each quarter of the challenge.

The Second Quarter challenge, One Step at a Time...Stay Focused, is designed to encourage you to continue in your pursuit of a healthier lifestyle by requiring 225 points per week to successfully complete the quarter. For the Third Quarter, Too Fit to Quit, 250 points are required for successful completion. The Fourth Quarter, Be Strong...Finish Strong!, will require participants to reach 275 points weekly.

Participants will use the 2016 Chairman's Fitness Challenge Exercise Equivalents Chart to report points to your Wellness Representative and may use any physical activity, or a combination of activities listed on the chart to reach the weekly goal. Remember, the primary goal of the Chairman's Fitness Challenge is to encourage people to participate in regular physical activity to improve overall health.

I want to encourage everyone to pledge your commitment to the challenge and to the goal of a healthier lifestyle. You will be glad you did!

back to top

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Agency News

 

 

 

 

 

star bulletBoard Bulletin

star bulletAgency News

TDCJ expands mental health response, crisis intervention training

TDCJ values armed service veterans, names employment liaison

PACT Conference held in Huntsville

ASCA honors Livingston with Francke Award

Your opinion counts, share it through the Survey of Employee Engagement

SECC thanks TDCJ employees

Claim It Texas website connects owners with unclaimed property

Chairman's Fitness Challenge 2015: fourth-quarter results

2016 Chairman’s Fitness Challenge

star bulletPolicies and Benefits

star bulletFeature

star bullet Saluting Employees