Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Data on TDCJ Unit Age and Cost

Yesterday I suggested that Texas should consider closing one or more of its older, more expensive-to-run prison units in the face of bleak budget estimates heading into the 2011 legislative session. I asked Michelle Lyons, the public information officer at TDCJ, for data referenced by Sen. John Whitmire on cost-per-unit at TDCJ, and she sent me a fabulous spreadsheet, which I've uploaded onto Google documents here. Take a look; there are a lot of interesting tidbits in the data.

Setting aside psychiatric, medical and drug treatment facilities, the range of cost-per-prisoner is still pretty striking, from $28.17 to $67.64. Of course, variations in programming will inevitably account for some of the differences in cost. (It should also be mentioned that cost figures are pretty dated - from 2005. But one supposes the relative costs among units are still generally valid.)

The oldest prison unit in Texas at Huntsville, according to the spreadsheet, was built in 1849, making it now 160 years old. (The spreadsheet says 158, letting us know it was likely created a couple of years ago.) The next round of prison building that contributed still-used buildings came in the 1880s - four units date from that era, along with another five from each of the first and second decades of the 1900s. After 1919, the next Texas prison still in use today didn't open until 1962.

Of those 15 older units, several have higher-than-average costs per prisoner, particularly smaller units in Gatesville and Richmond with costs per prisoner in the mid-$50s. Most of the units at the top end of the cost list (again, excluding medical units, etc.) have fewer than 1,000 inmates apiece, meaning their closure would reduce capacity only in small, manageable chunks. Thirty Texas prisons, according to this chart, house fewer than 1,000 prisoners; 13 units have fewer than 100 full-time employees at full capacity.

The chart also gives useful data about current unit-by-unit staffing levels, including the number of vacancies and the percentage of positions vacant at each unit. Despite recent staffing gains, a half-dozen TDCJ units have staffing levels below 70%. These are not older units but mostly rural ones, in Dalhart, Lamesa, Colorado City, and Tennesee Colony (where TDCJ's third-largest unit, Coffield, has 229 vacancies).

Another striking cost figure comes from the prison hospital in Galveston: $1,817.62 per day per prisoner (in 2005 dollars).

Interesting data, which may become fodder for additional, future posts.


Boyness said...

Texas is insane with prison "tradition" so much, we have a museum and tourist attraction at Huntsville. The states fascination with prisons will NEVER allow them to close one. The Walls is in the National Registry of Historic Places, built in 1849. Close a prison? NEVER!

ckikerintulia said...

Thanks Scott. I want to look at that spread sheet. The whole prison industrial complex comes into play. In rural areas (like
Tulia, Childress and many others) farmers who could no longer farm became prison guards (I think "coorectional officers" is their pc term). They still supervise those whom they once supervised as field hands. Not the same individuals, due to TDCJ policy of not incarcerating prisoners near their homes, but people in the same economic, cultural, and racial categories as their former field hands. Closing these rural prisons would exacerbate the economic conditions in these areas, and thus become politically dangerous.

Anonymous said...

Prison Business is Big Business in Texas!!! Prison convicts are a main cash crop in Texas. The Texas Legislature makes felony laws to keep production up. Follow the money boys and girls and the strange and confusing gets a hell of a lot clearer. You will never see rights restoration for convicted felons because that would lower the repeat offender rates drastically. Some folks are here for other folks to make money off of. Sorry but that is how the world works! The prison business is another reason laws are passed to make guns and drugs illegal thus creating a black market. The big money people make their money on both ends. They sell you the drugs and then put you in their prisons, now that is a win - win situation for the big money boys. More snow has been flown into the USA in CIA planes than by any other method. The US military is guarding the poppy fields in Afghanistan today. The government at all levels has become corrupt. It is no longer the Good Guys and the Bad Guys; it is the Bad Guys and the Really Bad Guys.

Anonymous said...

You twisted!

Anonymous said...

CHICAGO (AP) -- A South Side church has offered a $5,000 reward for information provided to authorities that leads to the arrest of a gunman accused of wounding two teenagers near the church.

St. Sabina Roman Catholic Church's pastor, the Rev. Michael Pfleger said Monday the church would offer the reward. Two teenage boys were wounded in a drive-by shooting on July 17 as they left a church-sponsored event at a nearby elementary school gym.

Anonymous said...

I guess this will be the final nail in the West Texas School/TYC. Even the adult system can't use this place.

Anonymous said...

Scott, TDCJ (Then TDC) had some figures together 25 years ago which indicated the Huntsville ("Walls") Unit and the Central Unit should be closed due to operational costs and security concerns. (primarily cost of maintaining and utilities). Some of this data was used to substantiate the need for new facilties during the big new unit construction. I believe these new units started opening (receiving inmates) in 1990 and continued thru 1996.

Interestingly the two older units that "needed to be closed" to save the state money, remained open.

I recall asking the then Director when the Huntsville Unit was going to be closed ( After the unit at Livingston had been opened). He quickly informed me that wasn't going to happen. The Death Row and complete Execution process was to be transferred, from the Ellis I unit and Huntsville Unit, to the Livingston Unit when completed. He informed me the "politicos" failed to provide funding for the transfer process.

As history recalls, it didn't take long for Death Row to be transferred to the Livingston Unit after the Death Row Escape.

Retire 2004

Veleta G said...

re: "The chart also gives useful data about current unit-by-unit staffing levels, including the number of vacancies and the percentage of positions vacant at each unit. Despite recent staffing gains, a half-dozen TDCJ units have staffing levels below 70%. These are not older units but mostly rural ones, in Dalhart, Lamesa, Colorado City, and Tennesee Colony (where TDCJ's third-largest unit, Coffield, has 229 vacancies)."

Once again I work at one of these units with "below 70% staff" but yet our unit was made to re-open the 300 bed moth-balled building late last yr after only beginning to have enough staff to run just over the 1,000 beds still being used.

Our surge in the number of staff came only after the economic crisis & high numbers of unemployment in our state & our nation. Now due to the staff that realized they just were not "cut out" for the job or numerous other reasons for quitting TDCJ, staffing has begun to drop again. If the powers that be had not made us open that building back up, our unit would be running way more efficiently and would still be over a 1,000 bed unit and we most likely wouldn't be losing staff again at the rate we are....why can't upper administration get that? especially when they're talking about cutbacks...

The way it seems to me is as if there is a plan to set these particular units up to fail so that the closures in these small communities can be justified. Mostly communities who in fact would be devastated by such a large number of unemployed & the ripple effect of losing a major industry in their communities.

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Anonymous said...

Close Wayne Scott Unit! It is very, very, very OLD, and has so many issues and the ombudsmen and the guards and the officials there LIE, LIE, LIE about the conditions there and they are "acredited?" Texas is INSANE with making money off of inmates; it is BIG business! When they lock up a bad checkwriter for 15 yrs, that says something!