Tuesday, July 21, 2009

TDCJ: Paroling older offenders could save Texas $49 million per year

Thanks to the addition of billions in federal stimulus funds and a now-vanished revenue infusion from high oil prices last year, Texas was able to stave off the kind of serious state budget crunch in 2009 that's crippled California and put the pinch on dozens of other states. The effects on criminal justice in California have been extreme, from the Los Angeles Sheriff choosing not to pay DNA testing in rape cases to slashing prison guard salaries by ten percent, the Golden State is taking radical steps to stay within its budget.

By comparison, Texas prison guards got 3.5% raises this year in an effort to reduce understaffing and the state financed modest increases to diversion and treatment programs to keep from building more prisons. Looking forward, though, by 2011 most official estimates see Texas experiencing severe if delayed effects in the state budget from a slumping economy, meaning legislators will be faced with cutting the budget or dipping into the state's "Rainy Day Fund."

At that point, legislators will be looking for places to cut, and this morning I ran across a brief, two-page report (pdf) on the TDCJ publications page that tells them how to save $49 million per year right off the bat. (It was published in December but I hadn't seen it before now and the Lege didn't act on the information this session.) According to the analysis, performed in response to HB 429 passed in 2007, the:
aging of the offender population has a demonstrated impact on the resources of the health care system. Offenders age 55 and older access the health care delivery system at a much higher level and frequency than younger offenders. Encounter data indicates that offenders aged 55 and over had a documented encounter with medical staff almost three (3) times as often as those under age 55. In terms of hospitalization, the older offenders were utilizing health care resources at a rate of more than four (4) times higher than the younger offenders. The 55 and older offenders comprise about 6.8% of the overall service population and yet account for more than 30.5% of the hospitalizations.
TDCJ incarcerated more than 10,950 offenders over the age of 55 as of Aug. 1, 2008, the agency reported; about 5,000 of them are not serving time for so-called "3g" (violent) offenses. (More than 60% of offenders in TDCJ's institutional division are eligible for parole, according to the agency's annual statistical report - pdf, p. 15). Paroling those offenders, said the agency, would save the state more than $20 million annually in off-site medical costs, at a minimum, as well as reduce the burden on internal TDCJ medical systems.

In addition, paroling 5,000 offenders would save money by allowing the state reduce its reliance on private prison contractors:
Based on the most recent LBB offender population projections ... a reduction of 5,000 incarcerated offenders could eliminate the need for contracted temporary capacity, currently 1,899 beds, reducing current agency expenditures by approximately $29 million annually.
So when Texas legislators start talking about budget cuts, TDCJ has identified $49 million per year the state could cut from the prison budget that should be discussed well before anyone starts talking about reducing staff pay.

38 comments:

Anonymous said...

So much for truth in sentencing. Here begins the "revolving door."

Kitten von Purr said...

The hilarity of this is that in order to save the money, TDCJ would have to spend it on health care to begin with ... which we all know that they would rather watch inmates die in the yard before they get proper medical care. So this is another 'propaganda' article and completely nonsensical.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

KVP, FWIW, the figures given were taken from what TDCJ actually spent in 2008 on off-site medical costs.

As for, "Here begins the 'revolving door.'"

It's already here, you're just not paying attention. Texas prisons house about 156,000 people and they release more than 70,000 per year. (Source - p. 40 of the pdf). How's that for "truth in sentencing"? Welcome to the Big-Boy debate where reality intersects with your platitudes.

Almost everyone who goes into prison eventually gets out, and the big public safety question is how can they be safely supervised in the community? That's why lately the Lege has been investing more heavily in community supervision systems (probation and parole) instead of more prisons. And that's been done in this "liberal" era when Republicans control every branch of Texas government.

In the alternative, when the budget crisis comes, where would you prefer the state cut $49 million per year? Or are you volunteering to have your taxes raised?

Anonymous said...

The Board of Pardons and Paroles is the problem here. They won't increase their approval rates until Guv Goodhair tells them to. Thank God Shanda didn't make it on the Board. No one would be released.

Anonymous said...

There are too many old offenders in TDCJ. This age population (over 55) is the least likely to reoffend. California last year was hit with an 8 billion dollar lawsuit by the feds over inmate health care.

This is a serious issue and not "propaganda." If parole works for this group of offenders, than Texas should use it. It's too bad there are lobbyist in Austin trying to keep the Texas offender population up, so Geo Group, MTC, and CCA can keep their contract beds.

The ideal of paroling old offenders quickly died this legislative session after it was discovered some private prison contracts would be cut. So long as private prisons lobbying powers exist, TDCJ's population will never go below 154,000.

sunray's wench said...

Elderly inmate populations is something I am currently studying. Texas is unusual in that it has a policy that states an age (55) whereby an inmate becomes classed as "elderly". Most states do not classify inmates this way. If anyone has any direct experiences, of elderly being denied parole for example, I'd be grateful to hear them.

You can contact me at inmate_wife@yahoo.co.uk

Duc said...

A bad idea doesn't become good just because it saves you a bunch of money.

Just think of how much we could save if we summarily execute every prisoner over age 55!

Anonymous said...

I think executing everyone over 55would impose huge costs because it would be unconstitutional and would impose billions of dollars in legal costs as well as the loss of most federal funds.

Anonymous said...

"The effects on criminal justice in California have been extreme, from the Los Angeles Sheriff choosing not to pay DNA testing in rape cases to slashing prison guard salaries by ten percent, the Golden State is taking radical steps to stay within its budget."

Here is something else California is considering............From Corruption Chronicles, a judicial watchblog

Illegal Aliens Get Millions In Monthly Welfare Checks
Tue, 07/14/2009 - 2:04pm
On the verge of going bankrupt with an astounding $26.3 billion deficit, the nation’s most populous state is considering saving hundreds of millions of dollars annually by cutting monthly welfare payments to illegal immigrants.

The savings doesn’t even include the billions of dollars that California spends annually to educate, incarcerate and medically treat the 2.7 million illegal aliens (7% of the state’s population) who live in the state that has so generously offered them sanctuary for decades. It turns out that legislators are finally realizing that illegal immigrants are draining their precious Golden State.

That’s why California officials, extremely generous with tax dollars in the past, are trying to find a way to eliminate welfare payments to tens of thousands of illegal immigrants. The move, which has caused outrage among the state’s powerful open borders lobby, would save a much-needed $640 million a year.

An example of who the state cuts the monthly checks to is an unemployed 43-year-old illegal immigrant from Mexico who gets $650 a month for each of her four children and about $500 in federal food stamps and other vouchers.

Its still chump change compared to what the state spends—between $4 billion and $6 billion annually—on schools, jails and hospitals for illegal immigrants. That doesn’t even include other local government costs such as police and fire, road maintenance and other public services.

The biggest chunk—$2.3 billion—goes to educating about 300,000 illegal immigrant children at public schools throughout the state. California expects to spend around $834 million to incarcerate nearly 20,000 illegal aliens in fiscal year 2009-2010 and well over $700 million to medically treat close to 800,000 illegal immigrants.

More than half the healthcare money will go to emergency services but a substantial portion will pay for nonemergency health services such as abortions, prenatal and postpartum care and even nursing homes.

Anonymous said...

With the push to make the prison business an economic stimulus by criminalizing social issues and the new industry of private contract prisons the thought of TDCJ being and old felons home is very practical. Cant afford to be in a retirement home and no family to take care of you in your old age, rob a liquor store and let the state take care of you. Do our legislators actually think this stuff through, or even read the document on what they vote for? Like Charlie Wilson said from the movie Charlie Wilsons war, it’s all about our legislatures jacking up the end game.

And sadly we are about to witness California politics inflect there costly socialist BS on the rest the United States with crap and trade and health care deform.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 1:26 would probably prefer to contract T.B. from an "illegal alien" than pay for their medical care. I can assure you that the cost of care would be far more if we did not as a society provide medical care for everyone.

As for the welfare checks. Children born in the U.S. are citizens. These children deserve the best social safety net we can provide.

Texas prisons are fast becoming inpatient mental health providers and long term care facilities. The problem is they do a bad job in both capacities.

Public safety concerns are way down on the list of priorities when it comes to Texas prison populations. We are slowly and painfully moving from a "lock em up and forget em" approach to more rehabilitation. Anything that furthers education and rehabilitation is good for Texas and good for all our citizens.

RAS said...

The lege may be about to save a lot of money. Instead of paying JCO's 35,000 they may be paying state troopers 45,000 to man the dorms (unless they start quitting too.) If the blogs on TYC - In The Trenches are accurate the meltdown may be well on it's way. The advocates of a prison for kids will get what they wanted as the only remaining option.

Anonymous said...

Gosh 2:50pm, what an assumption on your part. I was providing information on what California is contemplating as it relates to their state budget, not stating an opinion.

Don't kill the messenger.

Anonymous said...

"In the alternative, when the budget crisis comes, where would you prefer the state cut $49 million per year?"

By cutting personnel in all state agencies and the associated personnel related expenses such as retirement, health insurance, overtime, etc that would be saved as a result of personnel cuts.

The Constitution of Texas requires that the government of the state maintain a balanced
budget. This provision was added by amendment to the state constitution during the 1930s when
Texas voters wanted to force state government to operate on a pay-as-you-go basis and avoid
deficit spending.

The alternative is to become like the federal government whose "outgo" is their downfall.

Anonymous said...

The best thing to do if you're an "older" offender is to break the law and get arrested the minute you get out. Let the state "tax payers" pay for your housing and medical bills through your dying days.

Anonymous said...

If you get lost in the details, just look up at the big picture: Texas must increase taxes to make
critical public investments. If we continue our present course, we cannot ensure our prosperity.

Ahma Daeus said...

INCARCERATING PEOPLE "FOR PROFIT" IS IN A WORD....WRONG!
Even if one does not ask or pretends not to see the rope and the flashing red flag draped around the philosophical question standing solemnly at attention in the middle of the room, it remains apparent that the mere presence of a private “for profit” driven prison business in our country undermines the U.S Constitution and subsequently the credibility of the American criminal justice system. In fact, until all private prisons in America have been abolished and outlawed, “the promise” of fairness and justice at every level of this country’s judicial system will remain unattainable. We must restore the principles and the vacant promise of our judicial system. Our government cannot continue to "job-out" its obligation and neglect its duty to the individuals confined in the correctional and rehabilitation facilities throughout this nation, nor can it ignore the will of the people that it was designed to serve and protect. There is urgent need for the good people of this country to emerge from the shadows of indifference, apathy, cynicism, fear, and those other dark places that we migrate to when we are overwhelmed by frustration and the loss of hope.
My hope is that you will support the National Public Service Council to Abolish Private Prisons (NPSCTAPP) with a show of solidarity by signing "The Single Voice Petition"
http://www.petitiononline.com/gufree2/petition.html

Please visit our website for further information: http://www.npsctapp.blogspot.com

–Ahma Daeus
"Practicing Humanity Without A License"…

Anonymous said...

Anybody with half a brain—and even a liberal—should know that the government, both dem and rep, can’t run anything effectively, including healthcare!

http://theblacksphere.net/site/dem-carnahan-disses-blacks/

Anonymous said...

3g's should also be looked at closely for the possibility of parole...how many of those offenders are just wannabes who could rehabilitate if they had a
chance at redemption?

Anonymous said...

Someone explain this "savings" stuff to me, please. The tax payer pays for medical costs in prison. The tax payer pays for indigent health care in the free. Grits - I'm accustomed to your zeal in wanting to reduce prison population but how exactly does the tax payer benefit from this proposal? I'll hang up and listen.

Anonymous said...

I thought California sold there prisons to the Chinese. And I thought Texas was a joke!

Boyness said...

Anonymous said...

Anybody with half a brain—and even a liberal—should know that the government, both dem and rep, can’t run anything effectively, including healthcare!
--------------------------------

OR PRISONS!

sunray's wench said...

There are plenty of 3g offenders who commited their crime many years ago - TX sentencing puts people away for 40, 50, 60 years and more, often when the offender is younger than 21. Some, against all the odds, do maintain family relationships with those on the outside. Not all would be released into a world without any support - many right now have families willing and able to pay for the medical insurance and provide housing, and jobs, so that these offenders would not be a drain on the public purse.

If parole were used intelligently, those with outside support aged over 55 could be released quickly. Those without outside support still have the option of halfway houses and church groups who offer help.

Consider the sentences handed out over the past few years, with more and more inmates now required to serve perhaps 25-30 years before they get a chance at parole. These inmates will be released one day, so it makes public financial sense to improve their access to families and friend now so that the state doesn't trade one expence for another later on.

Charlie O said...

Anon 8:53 -- The good christian citizens of Texas don't believe in redemption.

Duc - How about we execute YOU.

Anonymous said...

Actually, Texas used to be pretty good at running prisons within budgetary limitations. Of course, that was before the days of the Ruiz case and William Wayne Justice.

Prison then was actually a place that people didn't want to go to. Inmates had to work, health care pretty much sucked, but the food wasn't that bad because it was grown on the prison farms.

Then we had "reform." Turning hardened criminals loose was not an option so we had to spend millions building new prisons, hiring more guards, improving the quality of physical and mental health care, etc.. Lots of folks figured out a way to make money off of these "reforms," hence the advent of private prisons.

As Grits has pointed out, we are approaching a time where major decisions must be made as to how we allocate finite resources.

In my opinion, society will not stand for coddling criminals and allowing dangerous offenders to go free. People forget that for most offenders doing 60 plus years, it was a JURY that decided that the facts of the crime or the defendant's criminal background warranted a lengthy incarceration. It's so easy to think that once an inmate becomes elderly that the concept of PUNISHMENT is no longer applicable.

Call me harsh, but when given the choice of furnishing quality health care to some uninsured child who has been diagnosed with cancer, and some 55 year old career criminal who happens to be diabetic or have some type of heart disease; I can easily make that call with a clear conscience and not lose any sleep over it.

In my judgment, setting criminals free will never be an option. Redefining what constitutes "cruel and unusual punishment" so that money is saved by reducing many of the "amenities" now available to incarcerated criminals is, on the other hand, something that should be considered. Of course, I'm certain many readers of this forum will be apalled at that suggestion.

Incidentally, Grits--what percentage of the current prison population is there for first time drug offenses? Or even repeat drug offenses?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

9:43 asks, "Someone explain this "savings" stuff to me, please."

The state is constitutionally obligated to provide full healthcare to those it chooses to incarcerate. Non-incarcerated people do not receive government funded healthcare automatically (which is why 1/4 of the public has no insurance). What's more, if an offender qualifies for Medicaid, most of the cost is picked up by the feds, with the state only paying about 1/3. From the perspective of the state budget, there definitely would be savings.

To 8:57, somewhere around one in five inmates are incarcerated for drug offenses.

Also, redefining "cruel and unusual" so that failing to provide healthcare to the incarcerated is okay will almost certainly never happen under existing federal court precedents. If the state takes away your liberty, they have an obligation to provide care. The state doesn't HAVE to make that choice - for example, they're not required to provide healthcare to those who receive community supervision or stiff fines - but when it does there are consequences.

Finally, it's just false that "setting criminals free will never be an option." That's EXACTLY what's happening right now because we fill the prisons up with folks who committed lesser offenses and sentences are way too long. As mentioned above at 11:29, we already have a "revolving door," it's just that the tuff-on-crime crowd wants to pretend that the emperor is really wearing clothes.

sunray's wench said...

anon 8.57 said: "Prison then was actually a place that people didn't want to go to. Inmates had to work, health care pretty much sucked, but the food wasn't that bad because it was grown on the prison farms."

Still the same today. Except inmates now have to serve more of their time in prison before being considered for parole. The jury may have set the sentence, but the people voted in the legislators who made the parole rules and upped the length of sentences available.

Some radical states give inmates a reduction on time served if they participate in education programmes and keep a clear disciplinary record. Texas doesn't. Those other states may still have issues with the cost of incarceration, but at least they allow themselves the full range of tools to fix the problem.

Anonymous said...

@Duc .. if you execute you, would we save any real money? Just hoping.. What a shit statement you just made. If an inmate is over 55, and statistically low for re-offense, WHY NOT release them where they can do something to help the community? even if it is on parole, atleast they will be working at something, and giving back into the pool.. your idea is not only offensive, it smacks of the kind of Neo-Nazi ideals that has gotten us into the situation in the first place.

Anonymous said...

That "2 page report" is essentially no more than a back-of-the-envelope estimate. But let us suppose that it is in fact right on the mark. Parole those 5,000 convicts & TDCJ saves $20,000,000 annually in health care costs. So who then will pay for their post-release health care? Taxpayers, via Medicaid/Medicare and other indigent care plans. There are no savings to be had there. As for freeing up 5,000 beds & thereby eliminating the same number of leased county jail beds, TDCJ has already cancelled those. No savings there either.

Charlie O said...

Anon. 8:57. You obviously have no clue whatsoever about the state of ANY Texas prison. Exactly what "coddling" and "amenities" are you referring to? Perhaps its the diet of nothing but PB&J when in lockdown? 110 degrees in a dormitory that houses 80 women with only 2 fans? Or paying 39 cents a minute for a fricking phone call. F U, you arrogant bastard.

Duc said...

Satire. Is it really so hard to understand?

Boyness said...

Anonymous
7/22/2009 08:57:00 AM
------------------------------
What an absolute ass. What planet do you live on? Where does your knowledge of Texas prisons come from? Have you ever stepped into one, even as a visitor? Get out of here and come back with some knowledge not some recycled mass public opinion about something you clearly know nothing about.

The Law Offices of Philip C. Banks said...

The savings make sense, but better diligence in sentencing makes better sense. There are alternatives to incarceration at all ages.

Anonymous said...

The savings make sense, but better diligence in sentencing makes better sense. There are alternatives to incarceration at all ages.

Sorry Phiilip, but your idea makes too much sense. Actually HOLD the state and judiciary to some sort of a standard in trial and sentencing? Surely you jest. This is Texas, home of Judge Roy Beam.. Home of the Texas Rangers, Home of Rick Perry... None of the above three would THINK about just sentencing, reform, nor oversight.. How would they (or would they have) made any money! We are a hang'em high state.. Unless you of course work FOR the state...

http://www.theeagle.com/local/Former-juvenile-officer-going-to-prison

Anonymous said...

how come no moderating for name calling grits? please bring back TYC comments

sunray's wench said...

anon 11.10 said: "So who then will pay for their post-release health care? Taxpayers, via Medicaid/Medicare and other indigent care plans. There are no savings to be had there."


Are you not listening or are you just ignoring?

If you still hold on to the stereotype that all inmate families live on welfare or are themselves criminals then you really need to get yourself into the 20th let alone the 21st century.

Many, many inmate families ARE taxpayers, as were the inmates themselves before they went to prison. Many inmate spouses hold down 2 jobs AND go to college while their loved ones are in prison. Many inmates families are the parents of the inmate, both working, both willing to support their offspring financially until they can get back on their feet.

If you lose your job, you may be thankful for the Medicaid and welfare assistance available to you.

While an inmate is in prison, there is no other option but for the taxpayers to foot the bill for medical care and everything else. If an inmate is paroled, then it is not necessary for taxes to be used to pay for medical care etc. Paroled inmates also have to contribute financially to their parole supervision, inmates in prison do not.

Inmate families are often taxpayers too.

Boyness said...

Anonymous said...

The savings make sense, but better diligence in sentencing makes better sense. There are alternatives to incarceration at all ages.

Sorry Phiilip, but your idea makes too much sense. Actually HOLD the state and judiciary to some sort of a standard in trial and sentencing? Surely you jest. This is Texas, home of Judge Roy Beam.. Home of the Texas Rangers, Home of Rick Perry... None of the above three would THINK about just sentencing, reform, nor oversight.. How would they (or would they have) made any money! We are a hang'em high state.. Unless you of course work FOR the state...

http://www.theeagle.com/local/Former-juvenile-officer-going-to-prison

7/22/2009 04:31:00 PM
-------------------------------

O M G I LOVE YOU!!!! EXCELLENT POST! WISH I HAD THOUGHT OF IT!!

Anonymous said...

A lot of the oldsters need to be looked at to see if they REALLY pose a threat to the public. Most, in fact, do not. But then again Aramark Corporation serves over a billion meals to prisoners in the US annually. The taxpayer is being had here and Texans appear too stupid to appreciate the big picture. Sure, keep the real animals locked up by all means, but let the disabled and helpless ones go. The high carbohydrate diet, designed to add even more punishment to the man IN ADDITION to his prison sentence is now creating thousands of type 2 diabetics that the unsuspecting public will HAVE to provide medication to upon their release! So, the self styled tough guys are REALLY doing nothing but increasing future taxes for everyone! TDCJ has become a diabetes factory and NO ONE wants to talk about how this lunacy will cost the public in the future!