Denying Tools to Improve Prisoner Conduct
Governor Perry's announced reason for vetoing HB 44 by Hodge honestly stunned me: "Providing an additional discretionary opportunity [for the prison system to reinstate good time] does nothing to protect public safety." Whaaaaat?! Hodge's bill would empower TDCJ to reinstate good time taken away for in-prison demerits, which gives prisoners direct, tangible incentives for improved behavior.
Texas correctional officers, this is the Governor Perry's message to you in his veto explanation: When he says "public safety," he does not mean YOUR safety. Most TDCJ employees recognize, as former general counsel Carl Reynolds wrote recently, that good time and other back-end discretionary tools improve inmate behavior in prison and give incentives to constructively prepare for post-prison life. For the Governor, though, guards' safety and prisoners' in-the-box behavior isn't part of "public safety." by this logic. You guys are disposable.
Lack of programs makes Ad-Seg more dangerous
An equally ineffable veto was another bill by Rep. Terri Hodge providing in-cell educational programming to prisoners in administrative segregation, which is basically solitary confinement where inmates are kept in a cell by themselves 23 hours per day. Some are there because they're dangerous and some for their own protection. Imagine how crazy you would be if you had to spend days, weeks, months in solitary with absolutely nothing to do. Some inmates come out more dangerous than when they went in, so increasing positive human contact and intellectual diversion through educational programming, in this writer's opinion, would constitute important first steps toward lessening the chance ad-seg inmates would be a danger to guards, other inmates or themselves, particularly when they're released back into the general population. Talk about penny wise and pound foolish!
Perry to TDCJ COs: No education for you!
Another inexplicable veto was HB 2103, which would have provided for tuition payment assistance for correctional officers at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville. Said Perry:
Although correctional officers are needed across the state, this bill would limit them to attending only one specified university to achieve the intended benefit. Furthermore, the state currently funds 19 financial aid programs; five of these are major financial aid programs and the other 14 target small groups of students. If the legislature funds the five major programs adequately, as I set forth in my 2008-2009 budget proposal, then we should not need other programs.So someone tell me this: How would the bill "limit" COs opportunities when what it really does is provide a NEW opportunity that didn't exist before? That's Orwellian speak. It's Perry who's limiting COs options. Prison guards are paid poorly compared to law enforcement officers and enjoy few perks, which contributes to nearly a 25% annual turnover rate. Now Gov. Perry tells them if they want to return to school--right there in Huntsville, the state's center for prison administration--and improve their lot, Texas won't help them. This centrist, bipartisan proposal to help retain valued employees, when the prison system has an employment crisis, should have been a bill Perry signed and then ran on in the next election. I can't imagine what he was thinking.